It is impossible to read a book or watch a movie as we did in the past. We are now drowning in an endless supply of media, so consuming media stops becoming an experience that is limited to sitting down and experiencing a single thing. Watching a movie is directly affected by our knowledge of the actors, other films, the music we listen to, and the news we consume. A movie is not one experience, but a percentage of a larger one.
In How To Read a Book by Mortimer Adler, the author discusses a form of reading called “syntopical reading” in which a reader curates an experience by reading several books simultaneously. This allows to form a broader idea by broadening the breadth of the experience. When I watch a movie starring Paul Giamatti, I am watching the film while informed by IMDb of his other works, while also perhaps reading M. Night Shyamalan’s Wikipedia page, which all creates one experience drawn from many sources.
My point is that art, or the way we look at art, can be taken from a new perspective of how it fits into the web of media and art available to us. Instead of analyzing a movie for the singular experience of watching that movie, we can think about how this movie fits into the larger picture of what is released that year, what the actors are doing with their careers, and what the directors are preparing to do next. I am now less interested in reading movie reviews, but am more interested in hearing how individuals relate a movie they’ve seen to an album they are currently listening to, which in turn is brought together by a book they are reading. All media consumption, especially now, is syntopical because it is impossible for it not to be.
One of my favorite poets, Nick Flynn, wrote a poem about his experience watching a recent mainstream film (the details escape me). The reason I remember the framework of this particular poem was because I thought it was so interesting how he was able to turn an experience (like watching Gravity starring Sandra Bullock) into something that was much greater than the movie itself. He does this throughout his book The Ticking Is The Bomb, in which he discusses with journalistic detail the history of America’s use of torture, while simultaneously exploring the intricacies of his family life.
I’m scribbling this out before I go into work (I have like 8 minutes to finish this up). My point is that I’m reading Walkaway by Cory Doctorow and listening to J. Cole’s new album KOD while also thinking about a video about artificial intelligence that my girlfriend sent me this morning. It all gets wrapped up into a large and complex idea that cannot and should not be completely separated. When I am discussing movies with friends, I don’t always want to paraphrase what happened in the film or discuss why we liked it. There is greater possibility to explore where the experience fits into ideas that are larger than the piece.