Alain de Botton on Twitter & Opera vs. Literary Event

you-are-never-too-old to try something stupid anne taintorLast summer I had a disastrous experience with Twitter.

My cousin set up an account for me because it was “time for me to get into the 21st century.”  Why?  Don’t I spend enough time on the internet?  Twitter did not seem attractive, but I subscribed to the feeds of Lydia Davis, Jo-Ann Mapson, Sherman Alexie, Natalie Merchant, Ron Charles, Jay McInerney, and Salman Rushdie.

My husband said, “I don’t get it. You’ve read War and Peace six times and now you’re on Twitter?”

I didn’t get it either.

It was extremely boring.

About 100 links were coming by tweets a day.  Tin House was the worst.  All day long, links to unknown writers’ websites.  Newspapers tweeted every time they published an article.  And then all the lit pages tried to be hip and sponsored Twitter lit contests.

Finally I closed my account.  I hated it.

Alain de Botton, a philosopher, recently advised his Twitter followers to delete Twitter from “at least” their phones for their mental health. He also spoke to a writer at the Washington Post,

Twitter is of course a wonderful thing, but it is also the most appalling distraction ever invented. It sounds so harmless. But it wants you never to be in touch with yourself again and never to have time to catch up on ‘updates’ from the person you really need to keep close to you: yourself. It denies us that precious non-specific time in which you can daydream, unpack your anxieties and have a conversation with your deeper self.

I do agree with him.

The minute you’re without it, life goes back to normal.  You’re not constantly checking to see if someone will finally make the Twitter experience worthwhile.  You know what?  Nobody is ever going to make the Twitter experience worthwhile.  It is a waste of time.

So I say, good for Alain de Botton.  He thinks it’s a good thing to take time off from Twitter.

This weekend we have so much going on.

1.  A literary event.

2.  An opera.

The minute I realized both were scheduled for the same weekend I felt doomed.

Weekends are for idling.

I haven’t gone to a literary event in a long time, but we have been looking forward all summer to seeing Jonathan Lethem at Prairie Lights in Iowa City.  My husband introduced me to his novel, The Fortress of Solitude, and I have since read most of his books.

One hundred miles IS a long way to drive, though.  And there have been some disappointments.  Where was Will Self the time we went?  Canceled.  Where was Jeffrey Eugenides?  Canceled.  The last great reading I went to in Iowa City was by Sherman Alexie.

The thing is, we cannot do both opera and literary event.  I don’t know how we scheduled this.

I like rock and live jazz, but I do not really care for opera.  I love the Met HD series, because even an almost tone-deaf person appreciates the Met.  But operas last hours and hours and hours.  “I ha-a-a-ate Carmen,” I told my husband when I realized we would have to choose between the opera and the lit event.  Does every regional opera company put on Carmen every year?  Can there BE any more hip-wiggling and shoulder-shrugging?  They put on Carmen when they’re not putting on La Boheme.   (All right, I like John Adams’ Nixon in China, but it’s safe to say we’re not going to that.  It’s probably Madame Butterfly.)

Anyway, back to the literary events, I recently found an autographed copy of a book by Carol Shields and remembered that event with fondness.  Autographs used to mean something to me, and now I don’t even have real books.

“Your book would probably be worth more money if it was autographed,” my husband says.

“Buy me the paperback.”

But I don’t think we’ll actually make it to I.C.  We’re still repairing the damage done by the storm last week.