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It’s hard not to notice that the pace of media has been increasing over our lifetimes. Does anyone out there remember when the news came at certain designated times of day, and could not be accessed at any other time? TV news had certain timeslots. Newspapers came out one a day, or once a week. Internet was not a thing.

And then Internet was a thing, and social media came around, and everything got faster and faster until the news became ever-present . . . and all-encompassing, if you let it.

The amazing Sally Rooney, in her most recent novel Beautiful World, Where Are You, writes about this phenomenon in remarkably penetrating prose. Two of her characters write emails to each other. Their conversations range from the personal to the academic. One of them writes:

“Anyway, as a consequence, each day has now become a new and unique informational unit, interrupting and replacing the informational world of the day before. And I wonder (you might say irrelevantly) what all this means for culture and the arts. I mean, we’re used to engaging with cultural works set ‘in the present.’ But this sense of the continuous present is no longer a feature of our lives. The present has become discontinuous.”

What an interesting, complex passage. Rooney’s characters are often whip-smart. I find myself jealous of the two characters for having an intimate friendship in which they can share such nuanced ideas. Rooney’s books are like that; despite all the agony the characters go through, I want to live in their world with them, for they are intelligent and interesting and fun.


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But anyway. The passage presents such a fascinating view of the speeding up of the media. It’s not just the speed, the character points out; it’s the whiplash changes. One day one thing is trending. The next day it’s something else. And this is true in not just social media but the news. Gosh, with the pandemic and political news, things truly have been changing day by day for the past couple years. How is an artist to keep up?

I have been worried about this in regard to my own art. I wrote a sonnet sequence that chronicles my life over the period of a year. But it was a pre-pandemic year. Will it still be relevant by the time I can find a way to get it published?

It’s so insightful to use the word discontinuous to describe the present. We are being tossed around by segmented information.

Do you think art is negatively affected by the discontinuous present? (Certainly Rooney’s art has succeeded. . . .)