Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Unitasking is the New Hotness

I don't like stunt journalism. It was interesting for about a minute, and now it's not anymore. I'm talking about those books which detail the author's attempt to do something for, let's say, a year. It could be following Oprah's advice. Living biblically. Living completely rationally. Following George Washington's 110 rules for life. Going undercover as a movie star. The last four of those, in fact, were all attempted by A.J. Jacobs, a writer for Esquire who also happens to have a new book out, titled The Guinea Pig Diaries.

In general, I'm not sure how possible it is to write without having that very process of writing significantly affect the experiences and thoughts being written about. This, I think, is one of the very most important functions of writing. But stunt journalism is different. Instead of clarifying past thoughts and memories after the fact, this type of writing predetermines the actions themselves as--or even before--they happen.

All that is by way of introduction to this piece by Mr. Jacobs, in which he attempts to unitask for a month. I'm not particularly impressed by the article, but, hey, if you're into this type of writing, go for it. Jacobs, if for no other reason than his impressive prolificacy, is the high priest of stunt journalism. I'm writing about it now because once A.J. Jacobs tries to do something for a month, that's a pretty good indication that the activity is one that people are thinking about. And so, get ready to hear a whole lot of simplifying our lives in the next few years. Unitasking is the new hotness.

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