Friday, August 20, 2004

almost the weekend!

I've read several op/ed pieces in the newspaper lately about the death of reading, particularly novels, in American society. The belief shared by these writers is that no one will be reading novels for fun in another fifty years: for school, yes, but not for fun. I suspect that this is true, though I do wonder about the rise of "chick lit" and what impact it will have upon American readers. Forty years ago, romance novels tended to be mostly historical pieces, and they offered a certain amount of useful educational material for the reader; perhaps Helen Fielding is the new Victoria Holt.

Not that I am of any use to the cause; I read a lot of mysteries and obsessively reread the Harry Potter books, but most of my reading, even for fun, is history. It's not that I dislike novels, but that I need suggestions for good titles, and ideas that aren't straight from Oprah. DISCLAIMER: I've read some Oprah-suggested recent publication novels, and found them too predictable. Yes, I still read the occasional Victoria "predictable" Holt romance...

Took my latest "must read" history text to the bookstore coffeeshop. It turned out to be very interesting, and I got through quite a bit of it, before being distracted by a mother with an adorable child. He chewed on his bagel, waved happily at me, and offered a piece. How could I refuse? I waved, took the bagel, and smiled at the mother. "Oh! Hello." Pleasant chit-chat follows, ending with the inevitable question, "so, what are you reading?"

"Oh! it's this incredible article about sexual misconduct in the islands off the coast of Florida during the colonial period, and the ways in which sexuality and gender roles interacted with race and class to define the otherwise unclear hierarchical..."

It's like a Victoria Holt novel, but with less kissing, and more references to Michel Foucault!

* * * * * * * * * * *

After several "bad stories about students" posts, I have a good one.

"Dear Prof. Lemming,
I've got about three minutes and a page of blue book left before this class is over. For a long time, I was annoyed at being in this class all summer, when I wanted to be outside with my John Deere. Then my son pointed out that you've been inside all summer, too. I read Edmund Morgan's biography of Benjamin Franklin for the first time; you've probably read it and read so many reviews that you no longer like the book. I'm going to go home and go out to dinner to celebrate the end of my degree; you have another forty years before you're done. Wow."

I still like Morgan's books. I still love my job. Now, if only statements like this were enough to earn me a Ph.D without this dissertation thing...

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty-eight


Anonymous said...

Even in my school days I knew people who couldn't see any point in reading. Sad but true that some people never so much as pick up a book outside of school.

Anonymous said...

Ooops, forgot to sign my earlier note!

Joe said...

I don't buy it. Sure, I meet a remarkable number of people who just don't read books, but I also read a remarkable number who always seem to have a new book to talk about. I know I read novels a lot slower these days, with radio and tv and movies and the Internet competing for my attention, but I always try to keep one going. All that money tied up in Border's stock has to come from somewhere...