Illicit Reading

Thank heavens for the Kindle.

The untold hours I currently spend feeding a small baby (should I actually be gazing lovingly into his eyes? Probably) are greatly improved by the magnificent one-handedness of this little wonder. I had failed to love it sufficiently until now; but even with one arm around the baby and one hand holding the bottle, I can still turn the pages with just my thumb. This is, indeed, The Future.

Given the Kindle’s simplistic operation, I can also spend quite large sums of money with just that thumb. What am I buying? Well, I blush to admit it really, but I’m indulging in an orgy of my favourite genre. No, not erotica, or at least not the traditional kind. I’m tearing through reams of organisational porn.

You may be familiar with the kind of book I mean. The whole market exists to cater for people who, like me, would cringe at reading a self help book. Org porn is not at all fluffy; in fact, it carries the distinct whiff of testosterone about it. On the face of it, these books instruct you on how to be better organised, plain and simple. But that isn’t the root of their appeal. What makes org porn so compulsive for readers like me is their implied meaning. If I am having to read these books, then I must be bloody busy. And if I am bloody busy, then I must also be bloody important – or at least, I must have the potential to be bloody important if only I read enough of the genre.

Stuck at home with an infant, this is a highly seductive message. I have spoken of my love for Tim Ferris before (and how the ones we love disappoint us the most), but in the current context, his books are practically sweet nothings to my ears. If only I could learn to master work like he has, I would not only be rich, but also potentially the tango champion of the world. Or something.

I once even considered starting a blog about this kind of book. Then people would send me them for free! Imagine! I’d be SO organised! Everything would be perfect, forever.

My current fix is Baumeister and Tierney’s Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength. I am really quite extensively sucked in. Through reading this hallowed tome, I have now identified myself as suffering from ego depletion, because I am exercising willpower in so many other ways (not caving in and going to bed at 8pm, for example), that I don’t have any left when it comes to, say, writing a blog post (sorry, readers. I know). I am also reliably informed that dieting to rid myself of the unsightly baby weight that currently plagues my mid-section would be counter-productive. Low blood sugar will only sap my will further; instead, I am better off sticking with the cake, and focusing my energies on remembering how to string a sentence together again. It’s just wonderful how these books tell you what you need to hear.

And my reading of Willpower has led me to another little gem of a book, Getting Things Done by David Allen (dontcha just love the covers on these babies?). A true classic of the org porn genre, this book starts with the assumption that you are a busy exec with, like, a zillion projects on the go, and that you’ll need an incredibly complex filing system in place to help you to remain zen-like in the face of all this stuff. Suffice it to say that I’ve just spent rather a lot of money on index cards and files, and have taken to emailing voice-memos to myself whenever I undergo yet another stroke of genius that must be recorded for future reference.

I don’t learn. A few years ago, under the guidance of Mr Ferris, I attempted to outsource my work to a remote PA service in India. My not-terribly-executive job often involved conducting evaluations, and this left me with hours of taped interviews to sift through. My bright idea was to get a non-native speaker to transcribe the inane ramblings of a group of seven year olds from Chatham.

You will have already predicted the outcome; I did not. My deeply enthusiastic remote PA would upload the sound files, take a couple of days poring over them, and then email back transcripts that would make Edward Lear blush. They were utterly, utterly random. I used to read them just to amuse myself with the odd juxtapositions of words that would come up occasionally. Sometimes, the PA would think she detected a theme emerging, and so would try to bend the transcript to fit; hence, one document seemed to record an eight year old discussing the finer points of adultery.

The moral of the story is that, if you’ve got time to read org porn, you’re probably not rich enough to afford a decent PA, remote or otherwise. But it didn’t put me off. You just watch me. This time next year, I’ll be getting so much done, you won’t see me for dust. Probably.

, , , , , ,

2 Responses to Illicit Reading

  1. Neil Baker 27/06/2012 at 17:02 #

    You really need to read my MA Cultural Studies dissertation, in which I cleverly deconstruct the subject positions that Ferriss (whom I interviewed once, surprisingly short man) and Allen invite their readers to occupy. That sounds like bollocks, I know, but believe me it’s interesting, and I got a distinction. Not available for kindle though.

    • Betty Herbert 27/06/2012 at 19:04 #

      SQUEE, Neil, SQUEE! You met Le Ferris! And I will be spending next weekend in a shed with you. Which means that I have met him by one remove. I am also claiming this about Tina Fey lately. If you can’t actually meet your heroes…

Leave a Reply