Amid the frenzy there is little room for the slow pleasures of the bookby Yuan Ren / February 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
It’s getting harder to sit down and read a book in Beijing. Even with the enduring smog outside being the perfect excuse for staying in, shutting the door and doing exactly that, a mere five minutes into chapter one and I’m already fretting over whether the delivery man is trying to reach me by phone.
Everything comes fast at you in China, and the sensory overload leaves no room for continuity. E-shop and your order arrives next morning. WeChat—a sort of combined Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp—engulfs the lives around me. Many people my age, including friends with busy careers, are living more of their lives online than offline.
I used to treasure downtime on the London tube to get stuck into a good book. On the Beijing subway, getting a seat is near impossible, and someone nearby is always playing a WeChat video with no headphones on. Kinda kills the mood, not that anyone is trying to read a book anyway. “When was the last time you saw someone with a book in their hand on public transport?” a writer friend of mine asked. I genuinely couldn’t remember.