WTF: Classx 2 Yr Phone

June 13, 2007 | 2 books mentioned 1 2 min read

A few weeks back, Reuters reported on a new website called Daily Lit, which blasts short clips of classic literature to subscribers’ email addresses every day. Readers can take in Anna Karenina via Blackberry, in five-minute chunks disbursed over fourteen months. “Our audience includes people like us, who spend hours each day on e-mail but can’t find the time to read a book,” Albert Wenger, a founder of DailyLit, told the press.

Now, far be it from me to denigrate any effort to make literature more accessible. I used to be a regular reader of the Samuel Pepys blog, and probably made more of a dent in the digital Diary than I would have in the hard copy. But Daily Lit seems to represent the unexamined costs of the information age’s promises of convenience. Is yet another daily email really the solution to too much email? What does it mean to click from Paris of Troy to Paris Hilton. (OMG, Achilles is sooo hot.) Does one find time, or does one make it?

Already 50,000 people have enrolled in Daily Lit, which currently offers 370 titles from the public domain, free of charge. Soon the site will expand to charge for daily excerpts of newer work. No doubt certain texts – Lydia Davis stories, poems by Basho – might lend themselves to the DailyLit treatment, providing a short liberation from the drudgeries of the day. But big novels aren’t meant to be noshed on like an energy bar, wedged in between breakfast and dinner. At their best, they open up vistas of freedom beyond our daily habits and obligations. Opt for the bite-sized version if you like. But God forbid I come to look forward to Tolstoy with the same dread with which I approach my inbox.

And so, book in hand, to bed.

is the author of City on Fire and A Field Guide to the North American Family. In 2017, he was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists.

One comment:

  1. Actually, I just got done reading a fairly large novel this winter through DailyLit, Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations." And I have to admit, it was a great experience that I loved; just a chapter or so a day, read in bed right before sleep on my Palm Treo, enjoying Dickens in the serial way it was originally published. I definitely get your point in this entry, but also wanted to point out that there are exceptions as well, and actually lots of interesting ways to enjoy services like DailyLit.

    I'm a new reader to The Millions, by the way, and already a big fan. Thanks for the really smart writing each day. –Jason Pettus, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []

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