Z, Terry, Gary Shteyngart, and I

Z and I are listening to Fresh Air on the way home from school. OK, Z is half listening. He’s still fuming a little because I talked him out of spending his money at a convenience store. I don’t like spending money and I’m not happy unless I encourage Z to wait at least 24 hours to purchase small things (The bigger the purchase the longer the stall.) after he tells me he wants something.

Anyway, I think Terry and Gary grab our attention when the conversation goes like this (Note, when Z gets into the car a preview of Fresh Air is playing and he hears Terry saying the first quote below and laughs.):

*GROSS: And she doesn't even know how to read books. She knows how to skim texts for information. Do you feel like Lenny, like somebody who is an artifact of the past because you read books and, even more artifact-ful, you write books?

Mr. SHTEYNGART: Yeah, no, it's so depressing. I feel like I'm insane to write novels. I'm like one of those, you know, those last Japanese soldiers on one of those islands who's like hiding in a cave and still shooting at the Americans, are advancing, he still hasn't heard that the emperor has surrendered. That's what I feel like all the time. I'm one of those guys.

GROSS: So what about, like, your texting life and your smartphone life? Like, how distracting or informative and useful has that been for you? And do you find that your concentration span as a writer or a reader is being changed?

Mr. SHTEYNGART: It's over. My concentration, my reading life, it's been shot. I mean, this is one of those cases where - I'm not against technology. I love my iPhone passionately. I think it's a beautiful piece of technology.

But sometimes technology outpaces sort of the humanity's ability to process it. You know, I think that's where we are right now. I know that's where I am right now, because my mind has been sliced and diced in so many ways.

There's so many packets of information coming at me, especially in a city like New York, which is so dense with information no matter where you go. I mean, even our cabs have television screens and info centers built into the backseat.

You know, and it's just shocking. How is literature supposed to survive when our brain has been pummeled with information, sliced and diced with it all day long at work, if we're white-collar workers? We go home. Are we really going to open up a thick text with 350 pages and try to waddle through it? Or are we just going to turn on "Mad Men"? Which is a wonderful show...

Gary (I feel we’re old friends after hearing him speak for five minutes) goes on to talk about how he thinks good scripts borrow from good novelist techniques. The conversation was interesting. And Z and I both know Gary’s probably on to something.

*I’m using the transcript from the Fresh Air site verbatim.