Admission and $10 off at our bookstore
Tuesday, 7:00 pm May 26, 2020
Casey Schwartz examines what it means to pay attention in the age of distraction and revisits what writers as different as David Foster Wallace and Simone Weil have had to say on the subject. Schwartz will be in conversation with Joshua Cohen, author of Attention: Dispatches from a Land of Distraction.
This event is part of our On Reading series: What makes us return to stories we’ve read, sometimes again and again, and how do we make time for this life-enriching pleasure? On Reading is a passionate and motivating call to lead a well-read life.
Casey Schwartz is the author of In the Mind Fields. She contributes regularly to the New York Times and lives in New York City.
Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in Atlantic City. His books include the novels Moving Kings, Book of Numbers, Witz, A Heaven of Others, and Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto, the short fiction collection Four New Messages, and the nonfiction collection Attention: Dispatches from a Land of Distraction. His web-based project, PCKWCK, the world’s first live-streamed, live-written novel, involved the participation of nearly two million Internet users across the globe. Called “a major American writer” by the New York Times, and “an extraordinary prose stylist, surely one of the most prodigious at work in American fiction today” by the New Yorker, Cohen was awarded the 2013 Matanel Prize for Jewish Writers, and, in 2017, was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. According to Harold Bloom, “Call it Sleep by Henry Roth, Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West, Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth, and [Joshua Cohen’s] Book of Numbers are the four best books by Jewish writers in America.”
Attention: A Love Story
By Casey Schwartz
What do we talk about when we talk about attention? We might start with the studies: the average American unlocks their iPhone eighty times a day; the average millennial checks their phone almost twice as often. These kinds of statistics tell the story of the last decade, as technology has wound its way into our lives as never before. But Casey Schwartz grapples with the larger questions emerging from this change, offering a focus on attention itself. What is it? What does it mean when we give it away?
Expanding on her popular New York Times Magazine article, “Generation Adderall,” Schwartz details the decade she spent taking prescription pills to help her pay attention (or so she thought), then moves outward to consider the wider landscape of attention, past and present. From our craving for distraction to our craving for a cure, from Silicon Valley to psychedelics to the works and lives of writers like David Foster Wallace, Aldous Huxley, William James, and Simone Weil, who each wrote powerfully about attention’s role in defining our lives, Schwartz acts as our sympathetic and qualified guide.
Blending memoir, biography, and original reporting, Schwartz examines her attempts to preserve her authentic life and see what’s most important in it. Attention: A Love Story will resonate with readers who want to determine their own minds, away from the siren call of their screens.
By Joshua Cohen
A wide-ranging, rule-bending collection from “a major American writer” (the New York Times)—reclaiming the power of attention in an age of constant distraction.
Throughout Attention, Cohen directs his sharp gaze at home and abroad, calling upon his extraordinary erudition and unrivaled ability to draw connections between seemingly unlike things to show us how to live without fear in a world overflowing with information. In each piece, he projects a quality of thought that is uniquely his, and a voice as witty, profound, and distinct as any in American letters. At this crucial juncture in history, Attention is a guide for the perplexed—a handbook for anyone hoping to bring the wisdom of the past into the culture of the future.2 .
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