New! 2014 Scholar in Residence at the Center for Art in Wood, Philadelphia

Of Einstein and Distracted Driving … and Writing

I shouldn’t kvetch about this, because then I’ll seem like the attention police – a role that I never have wanted to play. Distraction can be a great thing – a creative break, an unconscious impulse to steer in another mental direction, a welcome intrusion from a friend.

But Distraction isn’t the title of my book. And it’s amusing and sometimes frustrating to hear and see how often people make that slip of the tongue… from Distracted to -ion. I wonder if this happens all the time to other authors? Do we celebrate Dickens’ Good Expectations? Did Nabokov shock us with Lola? Is this a peculiarly post-modern symptom of our hurry and overload?

I just stumbled on a particularly amusing example, a humor column by Canadian filmmaker and writer Josh Freed … or was it Greed? … in the Montreal Gazette last fall. The column itself seems to have disappeared from the paper’s website, but I found it in a database by accident. Here’s a slice of it:

In her book Distraction, author Maggie Jackson warns of the shallow modern attention span she calls “Mcthinking.” She says it’s “eroding our capacity for deep, sustained, perceptive attention and stunting society’s…

Uh, sorry what’d she say? I checked my email partway through.

When I saw that a correction ran later in the Gazette, I was thrilled. Someone caught the mistake! But no, the correction alerted readers to the fact that Tolstoy, not Dostoevsky, wroteWar and Peace, another book mentioned in the column. Sigh. Note to the editor: How about giving a helping hand to the living author, the one who’s trying to feed her kids on her writerly profits?

Oh well. Thank you, anyhow, for the shout-out, Josh. As they say, any publicity is good publicity. And I’m glad that you are fighting the good fight against inattention in society.

And on that note, let me give Albert Einstein the last word on distraction. The great thinker once said:

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.

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