Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Decline of Reading

Yet another article on the decline of books, this time in The New Yorker.

For a change the article does go into some interesting topics like whether and if it indeed does then in what way reading affects the way people perceive and interpret reality. While I agree and sympathise with all the lamentations on the subject, we shouldn't forget the fact that while reading can enrich our imagination and help us find meaning in our experience, it can also alienate us from reality and ourselves if we lose the critical awareness of how it works. So it is actually a special kind of reading, a critical reading, that we should try to promote. I don't think written language and books will ever go away but it is likely they will appear more and more like powerpoint presentations in future or else just a string of buzzwords and ready-made expressions and cliches, in other words, some version of newspeak. Actually as anyone who has worked in a corporate environment knows, the newspeak age is already here.

In the same issue of New Yorker there is a review of J.M. Coetzee's new novel Diary of a Bad Year by James Wood. Some good exercise for linguistic-cognitive areas of brain there.

1 comment:

KUBLA KHAN said...

I agree when you say that we should aim at critical reading. We must attempt to re-read what we have done before, without fear. in other words, as we become experienced readers, we must try to know ' how' to read.
for myself, newer readings of camus for eg have been disappointing, for I did not question too much before. the same must be applied to classical literature including the well adored ones......kafka, proust etc to name a few.
one must attempt to read these writers posthegemony, post colonialism and see if they are really great.
some time back, i questioned, lamely about Bernhard, and one blogger, well known, actually wrote a ridiculous rant about his 'Greatest' writer of the last many years.
no one on his or her own is the best or the worst writer etc but they make attempts, that is all.
another thing is the establishment of critics who make and break the reputation of writers, demolishing the reader into obscene sentences on book covers like....the greatest novel, the best, classic etc etc
I am finding a similar vein in blogs I visit. it puts one off.
crtical reading should not faze us into submission nor reduce us into solipsism, as you once commented.
even a Bolano, a Borges are products of their environment. It is not right for me to say so, but right for an established critic!
the very essence of life is a paradox, contradictions. some opinions of well established philosophers are ridiculous at times too....
we can but try and never stay converted. that would be death.what say?