【今日阅读推荐】本篇阅读材料“文化选择之暴虐令大脑精疲力尽”选自《卫报》（原文标题：The tyranny of cultural choice is making my brain gasp 2012.8.28）。如果大家觉得比较简单，就当作泛读材料了解了解，认识几个新单词或新表达方式也不错。如果大家觉得这些材料理解上有难度，不妨当做挑战自己的拔高训练，希望大家都有进步^^
These days we are endlessly bombarded with lists of 'must-read' articles and books, and reviews of 'must-see' box sets. It all makes me want to sigh: must I?
The pile of books next to my bed has become a Tower of Doom. Last month, I was two-thirds of the way through The Age of Extremes when its author, Eric Hobsbawm, died. Just below it was The Railway Man, the wartime memoir of Eric Lomax. He passed away too. A week after I finished Hunter S Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, defeated presidential candidate George McGovern, one of its key characters, went. Christopher Hitchens, Nora Ephron, Gore Vidal … My must-read list resembles a kill list.
It reminds me how much I hate those litanies of things to read, see, hear or experience before you die, and the way they turn entertainment into an impossibly epic assignment to be completed before the ultimate, non-negotiable deadline, as if you will be on your deathbed guiltily confessing to your grandchildren that you never got around to watching the Three Colours trilogy even though you somehow found time for all six seasons of Lost. I find the beat-the-reaper concept irrational and self-defeating, not because I feel above it all but because it highlights how irrational and self-defeating my own attitude to cultural consumption has become.
In the most heartfelt chapter of his book Retromania, the music critic Simon Reynolds admits to a strange nostalgia for the boredom of his youth. "Today's boredom is not hungry, a response to deprivation; it is a loss of cultural appetite, in response to the surfeit of claims on your attention and time." One of the many ways in which technology leaves the human brain gasping to keep up is in its provision of almost limitless choice, because time remains as limited as ever. "Life itself is a scarcity economy," writes Reynolds. "You only have so much time and energy."
Technology has birthed new versions of the bedside pile of books: the neglected links stacking up in my Twitter Favourites column; the high-minded Netflix queue compiled by a tired parent who has somehow mistaken himself for a film-studies undergraduate; the earnest documentaries waiting in silent accusation on my DVR, like an unused gym membership, until the day the device mercifully crashes. At the same time, the digital buffet can erode your ability to commit to one thing at a time. The main reason I don't own a Kindle or iPad is my suspicion that, without the firm anchor of a physical book, I will get restless and float away in a sea of options.
The great joy of immersion in one particular story is that it stops you thinking about time and how to spend it. I recently counted the books in the Tower of Doom, estimated how long it would take to read them all, tallied this against my available reading hours on an average day, and concluded that the only realistic solutions were to shoot myself in the foot like a panicky first world war Tommy or get sent to jail, where I might be able to fit in some regular exercise too. Obviously, what with having a job and two young children, these both had drawbacks. Perhaps I could read faster. President Theodore Roosevelt allegedly finished up to three books a day, advising his son: "The wise thing to do is simply to skip the bosh and twaddle and vulgarity and untruth, and get the benefit out of the rest." This is good advice for anyone who considers watching all six seasons of Lost, but it also makes the process more akin to data processing than actual enjoyment.
Time anxiety induces a perverse reaction to recommendations. Links to "must-read" articles or rave reviews of "must-see" box sets make me sigh. Must I? Conversely, if I hate, say, the first episode of a new TV drama I feel a thrill of elation: "Thank God for the Newsroom's smug, self-parodic hokum! I've just saved myself hours." Recently I was a few chapters into Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer (which belongs alongside On the Road and The Magus in a subcategory of Books You Should Read Before You're 18 or Not at All) when I realised I loathed it and could exile it to the charity shop with a clean conscience. It felt great.
When I hate something these days I find it liberating rather than disappointing because I like too much. It wasn't just the deprivation that Reynolds mentions that guided my teenage choices; it was a certain militant narrow-mindedness. With cheerful ignorance I consigned vast swathes of culture to the Land of Not My Kind of Thing. Even though I missed out on countless books, films and albums that were, in fact, My Kind of Thing, I didn't know that at the time, so I was free to go deep instead of broad. I never had the sense that the clock was ticking and Middlemarch wasn't going to read itself.
More importantly, I didn't care. I don't know why I do now – why, in my mind, availability leads to obligation. I don't attend the hideously competitive dinner parties or academic confabs described in Pierre Bayard's How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read. Frankly, nobody except me is interested in hearing about the ones I have read. Looking at the Tower of Doom and its digital equivalents, I wonder: does manically devouring as much culture as possible make me a better person or just a better armchair University Challenge contestant? I think I know the answer to that one.
bombard with 大量提出；连续提出；用……进行轰炸
get around to 抽出时间做……；开始考虑做……
nostalgia n. 乡愁；怀旧之情
boredom n. 厌倦；厌烦
surfeit n. 饮食过度；过度放纵
scarcity economy 短缺经济；稀缺经济
stack up 堆积；累积；加起来
bosh n. 胡扯
twaddle n. 废话
vulgarity n. 粗俗语
akin to 类似于；近似
loathe v. 讨厌；厌恶
The Age of Extremes 英国社会史学者埃里克·霍布斯邦著作《极端的年代》
The Railway Man 埃里克·洛马克斯的传记作品《铁路人》
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 亨特·斯托克顿·汤普森作品《恐惧与嫌恶：跟踪1972年的总统竞选》
Three Colours trilogy 《红白蓝三部曲》 波兰导演基克日什托夫·基耶斯洛夫斯基的电影作品系列。
Tropic of Cancer 亨利·米勒的自传体作品《北回归线》
On the Road 美国作家杰克·凯鲁亚克的作品《在路上》，被公认为60年代嬉皮士运动和垮掉的一代的经典之作。
The Magus 英国作家约翰·福尔斯的作品《巫术师》
1. Can you explain the term "Tower of Doom" according to this passage?
2. Do you agree with the author's viewpoint? Why?