Want a good scare?

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Tue May 22 00:33:22 EDT 2001

On Thu, 17 May 2001 16:15:58 +0100, Hallie O'Donovan wrote:

>>Check this out:
>>It's talking about Americans, but I wonder how other countries stack up when
>>it comes to reading.  Now go find someone to give a DWJ book to.  You could
>>be saving a life.  :)
>Time to play devil's advocate maybe - must be reading Connie Willis 
>that's done it!  (Not about giving the DWJ book to someone obviously, 
>that I agree with totally.)

Reading Connie Willis makes you into a devil's advocate?  What did they put
into your copy, Hallie?  :)

>Thanks for posting this, Melissa.  I found it really interesting. 
>But did anyone else find the style of writing very off-putting? 
>Possibly it was just proving the author's point, which I'm sure 
>wasn't his intent!  (Linton.  Him?)

Jacob and I had this argument about authorial tone in regards to the John
Grant article about fantasy.  I think if I agree with the fundamental point,
I'm not as put off by irritating style.

>But, for all the scariness of the actual facts and figures, I'm not 
>sure a lot of the points were that great.  Just to mention a couple: 
>do people really think it's such a great idea to "deify" the 
>lifestyles of writers such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott 

We're still deifying the same horrible lifestyles--that hasn't changed
much--but now it's all movie stars and so forth...or maybe it's just that
modern writers live impeccable lives?  (yeah, sure)  Anyway, it's not good
either way.  Another argument against his point: how much was this trend of
lionizing writers fading out with the advent of movie making?  If you can
visually depict the subject of your gossip, are you all that likely to go
filming some writer at a typewriter?  Booooring.  

>And I DO understand that he was just using catchy phrases to make a 
>point, but that's part of what worried me.  Because some of the 
>reasoning was so illogical that I just started doubting the real 
>belief behind this article.  If Barnes & Nobles and Borders are 
>"acrawl" with people, why should we conclude that this is unimportant 
>compared with the bad news?
>Ok, I spent last weekend working at our Church fete on the 
>book-stall, so maybe my impressions are still askew (like my back, 
>from toting books!)

The reason I posted it was that I read it just the day after having had a
talk with a concerned father whose teenage daughter totally fits the
aliterate model.  So it was a moment of synchronicity.  But in general, yes,
I do think we have a problem not only with people not reading for pleasure,
but not even reading for basic information.  Sometimes I worry that we've
already entered the post-literate society and nobody's noticed.

On the other hand, maybe it depends on where you're standing.  If I'm being
pessimistic, it's because I hear all the time from teachers who lament the
fact that they can't get kids to pick up a book.  I'm never hearing the
positive cases (except the ubiquitous "My kid never read anything until he
read Harry Potter and now I've just bought him his fourth copy of
_Philosopher's Stone_ because he read the first until it fell apart, dropped
the second into the bathtub and kept reading it underwater until it
dissolved, and loaned the third to a friend who got so involved that she
stole it and is now refusing to admit she ever borrowed it and has taken to
answering the phone with a false name in case it's my kid wanting the book
back" which is, of course, a very common story nowadays) of people who have
recently re-learned the joy of reading.  While I think the author is more or
less factually correct (allowing for some dramatic license) I think you
could write an article from the opposing point of view and be equally

Melissa Proffitt
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