Scott Hughes wrote:Why People Read Less And Less
by Scott Hughes
We do not value education and intellectuality much anymore. Instead, we value entertainment and athletics. Perhaps it is because technology and development have eliminated a great deal of our need for intelligence. Perhaps we feel secure that our needs have been met and feel that we no longer need to work as a society towards major goals. As a result, we just want to lay back and gossip about Paris Hilton and cheer for our favorite sports team.
What do you think?
Ok, I'm about to be Polly Party Pooper here, but this sentence immediately caught my eye. I believe that therein lies a great reason why people don't read so much--the assumption that readers are smarter and books are for intellectual value above entertainment. There are several "French" adjectives I can readily apply to that.
I was an English major; I read a lot. I've explored the impossible brain of Agamben, compared to whom Nietzsche is a puppy, and I've mulled over the real story behind Christopher Marlowe's death. I read the letters between Benjamin and Brecht. I read Umberto Eco for fun. Imagine.
In my studies, I also learned that English majors can be real a-holes. Among them, be they fat short tall or hairy, there is the widespread misconception that because they read, they are smart. This is not true. People who don't read novels and are smart obviously realize this, but they are too smart to care. They are busy learning Chinese or untangling the political machinations of the leader of Botswana.
I know the comment was innocently made, which, indeed, is what provoked my rant. It's an idea so, so ingrained that we just accept readers to be deeper thinkers, no matter what they read. It's a kind of "book worship" that, to me, is as silly as not reading at all because you think it's boring.
And guys, let's be honest, novels are stories, and most of the language used is about as challenging as watching a rerun of CSI.
In fact, I see how this idea of "books lead to self-improvement" actually leads to people reading less. I'd be irritated with my smug bookworm room-mate, too if I didn't read for fun. If reading Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet" gives you a superiority complex, heck, I'm watching Buffy.
On a second note, I don't think technology has eliminated our need for intelligence. A cursory look back in time would show you that the vast, vast majority of people spent their lives being illiterate and mocking those who frittered away their eyesight learning stuff that didn't matter.
If the satorical pieces of the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries are any indication, the majority of people who could read (a.k.a the wealthy) were silly and sometimes scarily inbred. There were a few "writer circles" that discussed literature and challenged each other, but they had independent wealth and no distractions.
I'm curious about the time when we were utilising our intelligence more than we are now. I mean as a mass population, not the few who made single, but startling, headways in science or published a lone masterpiece in their lifetime. Most people, I think, were ogling the local village girl (Paris Hilton) or placing bets on cockfights.
Sorry in advance if I've harshed too much!
And, um, I like books.