Do we need only Smart Brevity? Or, do we need some deep dives in a Smart Brevity world? – A case for the occasional deep dive!
• Here’s a question:
What if we live in such a short brevity world that it is hurting our capacity to think deeply?
Last Friday, I presented my synopsis of the book Smart Brevity. (Read my “short” blog post here). I liked the book. I agreed with it.
And then…and yet…
But, today, I read this article by Ross Douthat in the New York Times: I’m What’s Wrong with the Humanities.
In it, Mr. Douthat refers to another article dealing with the same issue – an article he admits he did not read thoroughly, at first, which is part of the problem – and then, he acknowledged that he does not read the great novels like he should; like he once did.
• My thinking:
Though my academic work, and my personal reading, have never included enough time in the great novels, I have read nonfiction, philosophy and rhetoric pretty seriously.
For 25 years, I have presented synopses of business books, and books on issues of social justice.
I read these books quite thoroughly. And, my synopses are not brief. My synopsis for the book Smart Brevity was not brief: it lasted just over 30 minutes. (I record them; and see the actual time).
Maybe I am simply trying to justify my long presentations, my use of what some would consider way too many words. But…
For my synopses, I prepare multi-page, comprehensive synopsis handouts. They are 9-12 pages. They include quite a few pages of the “best of Randy’s highlighted passages” from the books. When I make my presentation, I read extensively, directly, from the handout (every participant has a copy; a physical copy). I read a number of the highlighted passages, almost like a book reading. Then I present from the rest of my prepared synopsis handout.
People tell me that they really do get the essence of the books I present. Even when they have read the book on their own, they thank me for what they learned in my synopsis presentation; what they had not quite grasped in their own reading.
If you attend my First Friday Book Synopsis event, you will hear two full synopsis presentations; each about 25 minutes, or so. In other words, a pretty deep dive in a smart brevity world.
• Deep dive; read a book in its entirety!
Now, I may be fooling myself. But I might say to Mr. Douthat that the need is not to read the great novels thoroughly, though that would be a good thing indeed. Maybe the need is to read any kind of book thoroughly. To read with a deep dive; to focus your thinking; to learn from and argue with the book – the entire book; the book in its entirety – in the way that only a thorough reading makes possible.
Of course my synopses are not as good as reading the book for yourself; not as thorough, not as deep… But, they are not nothing. Our monthly sessions provide a rare concentrated moment of something close to depth in our too-busy, too-distracted, too-brief world.
Maybe we all need to take a deep dive in a smart brevity era.
• What are you doing to tackle such a need?