Leo Tolstoy or Lee Child?

I saw Jerusalem last week. It was 3 hours long, some of the country folk a little generic, but fabulous.

Then I went to a night out at the new Bush Theatre. It was smaller, less hyped, but in its own way just as wonderful.

Both were a relief. Recently, I have found bookshops, music and the like harder and harder to face. I am beginning to opt for very professionally done (but ultimately crap) airplane thrillers over challenging fiction, background music over anything else. I am reading more books that you forget as soon as you put them down, TV that you don’t mind not pausing while you make a cup of tea.

As Darwin said,

“My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of fact . . . .The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”

Except Darwin’s general laws were pretty impressive and mine are becoming more and more like platitudes drawn from pub trivia. I am not quite at the “kids these days” horrors a younger me swore I’d never say, but I am slipping along the the slope.

Nor am I alone. Many friends I speak to, male friends at any rate, are all increasingly reading non-fiction or trashy plane reads. Trips to the theatre, to concerts, new fiction and the arts all are treated with not dread exactly but at least a sigh. They take so much concentration!

All of which makes me wonder, perhaps this panic about children and attention spans is the projection of middle-aged men (like me) grumbling about their loss.