Every morning my alarm goes off at 6:30 am. Before I lug my sluggish body from under the security of my warm sheets, I reach for my phone, pull it up inches away from my face, and start scrolling through whatever I missed overnight. This is not only the beginning of my morning routine, but also a routine behavior throughout the rest of my day — obsessively checking, collecting, and consuming content until I close my eyes and try to disconnect my brain for the night. This behavior is called Infomania, which is defined as “the compulsive desire to check or accumulate news and information, typically via cell phone or computer.”
Infomanics like myself are likely to feel the effects of information overload, a phenomenon caused by overdosing on information, which reportedly developed as early as the 3rd century BC, when writing allowed us to record and preserve information longer than memory. Information overload is a mentally, and physically, taxing condition. Symptoms include sluggish thinking, a flitting mind, and stifled creativity.
In Fluke, Joseph Mazur uses probability to strip chance events of some of their mystery. First, he explains the difference between a coincidence (a meaningful conjunction of things without any apparent cause) and a fluke (an improbable outcome the cause of which is clear – such as a lottery jackpot, where buying the ticket is what makes the win possible).
Second, we discover that not all of these incidents are created equal. Some, such as Parrish’s extraordinary find, or the businesswoman who got into a taxi in Miami to find that her driver had picked her up in Chicago three years earlier, are not quite as incredible as we imagine. They are the result of shared networks of travel, class and communication.
It’s possible that there are lazier travel writers than Steve Hely, whose new book describes going from Los Angeles all the way down the Americas’ western coast to Patagonia, without eliminating the suspicion that he never actually left home. But if you can let Mr. Hely’s joking offset his featherweight work ethic, there aren’t many who make better company.
Megan Bradbury’s debut novel also develops from blocks of text surrounded by white space. Her chapters are short, her paragraphs all of similar length and her sentence structures as repetitive as a course of bricks; sometimes three or four in a row start with the same word. The effect is enervating at first – it feels like an early reader for intellectuals. Yet gradually these blocks of text build to something more complex.