I’m very, very sorry, but I can never read again.

I did not want this to happen either. I love reading. I love having read just slightly more, but I love reading, too. It is a sad day. Now, if I want to disappear into a new world by holding paper in front of my face, I have to visit Colorado.

They’ve come up with a fresh new bedevilment for us readers — specifically, Brazil’s Tweet for a Read campaign.

With a “smart bookmark,” it senses how long it has been since you last opened the book and allows the book’s author (or at least a combination of her phrases) to tweet to you to remind you to finish. (One alternative, noted Springwise, was to print books in disappearing ink, which sounds even more nightmarish.)


I can say as a student of the human psyche (well, I’ve been a human for over 20 years now, which has to count for something) that this is not the way to go about it. There are many things that I know I need to do. Laundry. Cleaning my apartment. Finishing “The Master and Margarita.”

I am well aware of the need to do all these things, and I might actually do them. This afternoon, even! But the instant someone else starts to TELL me that I need to do them, I become twitchy and resentful. “I WILL do it,” I say. “Of course I will. I know. I’m going to. Don’t nag me!” Then years pass, and cobwebs cover my hallways and bookshelves, and nothing gets read or laundered for months and months. I am sure this is what happened to Miss Havisham. “Why don’t you pick up that wedding cake and get out of that dress?” someone said, and that was how, 19 years later, she came to be still wandering around in the same outfit. I sympathize!

I will do it right now — until you nag me about it.

And I’m sure someone else is the same way. (At least, I hope so. I put down Freud and never picked him back up, and I think he had something to say on this.)

It took me years to get through “In Search of Lost Time.” Imagine if Proust had been tweeting at me the whole time. I would barely have made it through volume thr– (Well, I would have kept going with that sentence, but then Proust’s vengeful spirit arose from the grave and stabbed me through the heart, saying he was “sick and tired of being humble-bragged about, like this, by everyone.”)

But imagine getting an angry tweet from Ayn Rand on account of having put down “Atlas Shrugged,” walked away and kept walking forever until you felt clean inside. (I’m sorry, Ayn! Don’t hurt me! I’m going to come back to it, I promise.)

Here is the backlog of tweets I’ve received, just in the course of thinking about this:

@CharlesDickens: @petridishes, I noticed you picked up David Copperfield and read the first 100 pages, and then you misplaced the book and have not evinced any interest in (1/?)

@CharlesDickens: returning to it which frankly hurts me as it was my most autobiographical work and I always felt that it got at things that other books did not. You also did this with (2/?)

@CharlesDickens: Oliver Twist. You read Great Expectations twice and A Tale of Two Cities twice so I assumed if you read those you would read anything, but clearly I was mistaken. (3/?)

@CharlesDickens: Wow this Twitter thing is very hard if you’re accustomed to being paid by the word. (4/4)

@SigmundFreud: @petridishes I don’t understand. You put down “The Interpretation of Dreams.” Is there something I can do to help? Do you want to talk through your issues with the book?

@LaurenceSterne: @petridishes Hey, I saw you were working on Tristram Shandy. My publisher is making me do this — seriously, no pressure, you’ve met the book (1/2)

@LaurenceStern: you know that speeding through it is not something that makes sense at all — but if you pick it up again, she’ll stop nagging me. (2/2)

@ELJames: @petridishes You stopped on page 7. Does someone need a spanking?

You see what I’m getting at here. It would be torment.

No, time to shut the books once and for all.