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Azita Rassi
Azita Rassi

Written by: Azita Rassi, Tiny Owl Publishing’s translator

Today I was talking with an observant friend about how difficult it has become to read a long expository novel to the end or to listen to a wordy speech with concentration. It made me think of another similar change that I have noticed in myself. I used to love watching feature films, but now when I add motion picture titles to my Netflix playlist, I know full well that I will choose to watch series after series before I finally pick one of those films. I used to think that this is because I don’t have free stretches of time to see a movie in one sitting and it isn’t very appealing to see a two-hour masterpiece of directing, photography, screenwriting and acting in two weeks of ten-minute-a-day-or-so rations. However, now that my iPad allows me to watch my favourites while doing the dishes, cooking, and the like, I’m constantly guilty of binge watching series for more than two hours a day and yet I don’t choose a film. So what has changed in me? Is it because I have a shorter attention span than before, maybe due to the stresses of juggling ten things at the same time or because of the impact of social networks, which makes it difficult for me to enjoy a long film or book?

My wise friend has a pet peeve: Turkish television shows that run for hundreds of episodes and are very popular in my homeland Iran from what I’ve heard. I see young people from diverse backgrounds all fascinated with Japanese manga and anime that also have gazillion parts apparently. Popular young adult fiction is usually written in more than one volume. I know I get personally hurt if my favourite shows end after less than thirteen episodes per series. So what is going on? How can I reconcile these seemingly opposite tendencies of on the one hand not wanting to commit to a long book or film and on the other being totally engulfed in long-running series and multi-volume books?

Maybe, though, I’m looking at all this from the wrong angle. It might be not the fear of committing to a long project that I (we?) find distasteful, but, quite the opposite, the fear of the magic lasting for only the duration of that book or film, of emotionally investing in a set of characters that will not reappear in the next volume or the next episode. Do you see a similar pattern in yourself or perhaps in your children? Are your teenagers reading books that come in several volumes? If so, I wonder if it could be related to the lack of constancy and stability in the ever-changing lives we lead, bringing us repeatedly into new situations, alien environments, and unfamiliar communities, making us yearn for something more permanent, even if it is just the television show that we started watching several years ago while we were still in our hometown or the book whose first volume we read when our parents were still living together.

More from this writer:

  • Darkness in Children’s Books and Optimism. Link
  • Creation of a cultural bridge. An interview. Link
  • The importance of translating children’s books to English. Link

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