Distorte is a collection of stories written by Pierce Gleeson

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Books became difficult. He began to feel the weight of them. Not figuratively, but rather the simple and familiar heft of the reading material that, before now, he had never really considered—outside the occasional tome raised to block the sun, slowly setting an ache in his arm. His attention was now drawn to the object itself. It seemed, recently, to pose a question by its very existence. This grew from an afternoon spent dusting and reordering his bookshelves at home. He did not immediately resent the chore, but was unable to stop himself questioning its necessity. Its value. The immense, static presence of the objects stacked up his walls. The obligation to sort them, clean them, smell them, handle them, own them. To turn their pages. The physical task of turning pages, simultaneously fluent and graceless. This troubling awareness arose, he was quite sure, because of the new and curious existence of alternatives. He had never questioned the use of books before the use of books became a question. A week or so later he sank into a friend’s couch and held the flat, grey alternative in clumsy fingers. Over the course of an hour his awkwardness faded. However, his attention was drawn not to the words on the screen, but to the action required to turn the pageless page. He swiped. He swiped. The physical imposition he was now unable to ignore while reading books was similarly present on this new device. Somehow he had imagined that the new medium might deliver reading without the regular interruption of his own hand. His friend led him through the process of purchasing a digital novel, and the whole exercise struck him as a great hassle, as muddled and as arduous as a trip to the bookshop. He could not stop thinking like this. A seed of dissatisfaction had been lodged between his teeth. Why couldn’t things be easier? He stopped reading books, by degrees, and began to spend more time online, filling the gap left in his habits with articles and stories. It was instantly evident, though he ignored it for as long as he could, that this reading demanded more interruption and more distracting interaction than any book. The act of opening his browser, typing into the address bar, selecting from bookmarks, managing and sifting through links. It was an enormous, chaotic infrastructure of effort to extract even a few short pieces. His cursor blinked mutely, expectantly, and he sat staring at it, paralysed by awareness. Nothing he tried offered the notion of ease that been pressed onto him. He thought longingly of afternoons deep in a novel, moving through it, entirely unaware of the task of holding it, turning its pages. Unaware of its shortcomings. The cursor blinked. He rotated his chair away from the waiting screen and the great walls of books and stared silently out the front window, and many hours passed, and it was a great relief when a dog walked by out on the road.

Written by Pierce Gleeson
Posted on the 26 Jun, 2013