Interesting article today by Laura Miller at Salon.com, who argues that instead of devoting a month to encouraging writers - with the argument that those who are really and truly determined to write a novel will write it, in November or no - we should be doing more to encourage readers. While I essentially agree with Caroline Kellogg over at LATimes.com, who calls Miller's admonishment "smallhearted," I think Miller has a point. Writers gon' write. But what can we do to encourage readers? Is it even possible to do anything in our attention deficient age?
When I was a kid my (evil) brothers called me "Billie Jean Reads a Book" and "Bookworm" because my way of escaping was to bury myself in literature. But it was second nature to me - I don't know if it's part of my genetic makeup or what, but I just didn't need much nudging to pick up a paperback. I think some people do learn to enjoy it over time, but while I haven't done any actual research to confirm or deny this hunch, I have to assume that fewer kids are being introduced to the joys of long form prose. There are just too many youtube videos and blog posts (ahem) and video games to contend with. I'm not such a naysayer as to suppose that literature is dying - I think if anything, it's just evolving - but I do worry a little about it staying relevant. There's just too much beauty out there that I want others to see and love as much as I do.
So here's my suggestion - I think it's high time someone did a modern, virally equipped update to the "Books: Feed Your Head" campaign that ran in the 90s. Remember this video on MTV, which starred a foxy Sherilyn Fenn reading some naughty bits? It was good. It was memorable. It was compelling. It was sexy without being lewd. And it may even have made some people dig into Kafka and D.H. Lawrence.
MTV, where you at?