Thursday, February 21, 2008

Everyone is Talking Reading These Days

Everywhere I look (read) these days, people are writing and talking about reading. In Sunday's Washington Post, Howard Garnder wrote a piece entitled The End of Literacy? Don't Stop Reading. In it he says:

But now, at the start of the 21st century, there's a dizzying set of literacies available -- written languages, graphic displays and notations. And there's an even broader array of media -- analog, digital, electronic, hand-held, tangible and virtual -- from which to pick and choose. There will inevitably be a sorting-out process. Few media are likely to disappear completely; rather, the idiosyncratic genius and peculiar limitations of each medium will become increasingly clear. Fewer people will write notes or letters by hand, but the elegant handwritten note to mark a special occasion will endure.

I don't worry for a nanosecond that reading and writing will disappear. Even in the new digital media, it's essential to be able to read and write fluently and, if you want to capture people's attention, to write well. Of course, what it means to "write well" changes: Virginia Woolf didn't write the same way that Jane Austen did, and Arianna Huffington's blog won't be confused with Walter Lippmann's columns. But the imaginative spheres and real-world needs that all those written words address remain.

Then, in today's New York Times OpEd column, Timothy Egan writes about Book Lust. In it he says:

Reading is something else, an engagement of the imagination with life experience. It’s fad-resistant, precisely because human beings are hard-wired for story, and intrinsically curious. Reading is not about product.

For most of my lifetime, I’ve heard that reading is dead. In that time, disco has died, drive-in movies have nearly died, and something called The Clapper has come and gone through bedrooms across the nation.

But reading? This year, about 400 million books will be sold in the United States. Overall, business is up 1 percent — not bad, in a rough economy, for a $15 billion industry still populated by people whose idea of how to sell books dates to Bartleby the Scrivener.

Add to this mix the LeGuin article I talked about here and here, and you have a veritable stampede of folks reflecting on the place of books and reading in our society.

1 comment:

  1. Stephen King's talking about it, too:,,20172616,00.html

    I always enjoy his columns. :)

    I'm *still* waiting for our Feb. Harper's to come in at the library so I can read the LeGuin. Everyone's talking about it.