When considering the The Guardian’s popular list of ‘1000 novels everyone must read’, Paul recalled philosopher Bertrand Russell’s claim that “There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.” Being able to boast about ones accomplishments has become a critical tool in the neoliberal lived experience ever since business strategist Tom Peters’ 1997 seminal essay, Brand Called You. The goal: To increase ones perceived value.
When this goal is examined through the lens of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s theory on cultural capital in its objectified state it becomes apparent how these 1000 curated books could be instrumentalised to boost an individuals value. But there’s a problem. Already overwhelmed by what psychologist Svend Brinkmann describes as the demands of ‘incessant development’ while engulfed in the ‘entertainment matrix’ identified by theorist Mark Fisher, individuals are left craving the prestige these novels might bestow upon their personal brand but are often, as Fisher highlights, simply ‘too wired to read’.
Influenced by artist John Beagles’ ‘The Blase Zombie’ essay, the work ‘Zombie Reading’ aims to stimulate discussion about the consequences of manipulating the objectives of objects and activities (books and reading) so as to contribute to the project of the commodified self characterised by the battle to increase cultural capital and raise ones personal brand above others. The mechanics of the video game itself force the user to decide if their attention lies with the gameplay as part of the entertainment matrix or the scrolling paragraphs. These paragraphs are constructed from only the final lines of the 1000 novels as reading the entire book is superfluous when one’s goal is solely to publicise engagement with the text.