The Plenitude of Distraction
A second look at distraction, extracting untold pleasures from its alleged dangers, defending and celebrating the unfocused life for the small and great wonders it can deliver.
This short book takes a second look at distraction, extracting untold pleasures from its alleged dangers, defending and celebrating the unfocused life for the small and great wonders it can deliver. It tracks the paths of writers that built their works around non-linear thinking. Bergson called on distraction to sharpen our perceptions; Proust's greatest epiphany came from stumbling, not walking in a straight line; Nietzsche never trusted a thought that didn't come from perambulation. The wanderings documented in these pages carry none of the stigma of attention deficit. Quite the opposite. In Montaigne's words, there is a marvelous grace in letting thoughts be carried away at the pleasure of the wind. It is time to side with some of the great propagandists of so-called wasted time and cultivate controlled mental mayhem. Come join the ranks of the great hedonists of meandering thought.
About the Author
Marina van Zuylen is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Bard College, and serves as the national academic director of the Clemente Course in the Humanities. She is the author of Difficulty as an Aesthetic Principle: Realism and Unreadability in Stifter, Melville, and Flaubert and Monomania: The Flight from Everyday Life in Literature and Art.