Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Death of Literature?



When I was watching the international news a couple of weeks ago, I was appalled at the flash mobs of juveniles pilfering, ransacking, destroying, and burning parts of London. The senselessness of it truly disturbed me.

But that aside, there was something else that sent gooseflesh across my body. In a section of the vandalized London neighborhood there was one business that the mob did not touch.

All its windows were intact and pristine.

The door had not been kicked in or busted.

No fire licked at its walls or roof.

And no one had found a quiet back exit to bust in and steal anything.

What was it?

A bookstore.

I cannot describe the feeling of sadness and fear that sliced through me when I saw this newscast.

For God’s sake, if we don’t teach our children the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and respect for others as well as the importance of a good education, our world is going to go from bad to worse and finally to Hell in a handbag.

Look, I realize there is a time and a place for contemporary gadgets such as hand-held gaming units, text messaging and the like, but what happens if there is a magnetic pulse, for example? How will we communicate with others? I'm all for e-books and I know they're economical compared to paperback and hardback, but something like a magnetic pulse would render everything useless, and if your entire library is e-books, how are you going to access it?

You sure as hell can’t make a cell call, send a text, or get on the Internet through a computer, tablet, or any other web friendly device to IM someone. Standing on your rooftop or the peak of a hill and screaming you need eggs and a gallon of milk brought home can only be heard so far (while nearby vandals chant “they’re coming to take her away, ha-ha, ho-ho, hee-hee!”), and nowadays no one has a clue what smoke signals mean.

Anyone know how to train a carrier pigeon?

Oh, I know! Regular postal mail. I could be a rider for the New Age Pony Express! One side of my family is descended from a long line of ranchers and cowboys...then again, saddle sores are horrible, and there isn’t enough Preparation H in the world for that much time in the saddle!

What about overseas friends? How would you reach them?

(looks around) Hey, anyone got a bottle with a tight-fitting cap or cork?

And writers would have to go back to using pen, pencil and difficult-to-use manual typewriters—damn, I broke a nail!

Losing our love and reverence for the written word is beyond frightening.

All joking and wild scenarios (but is it so wild?) aside, younger generations don't want to read. Remember the bookstore I mentioned earlier? What if this sort of thing spreads all over the world? Reliance on high-tech gadgets, lack of teaching, lack of nurturing, and the lack of guidance creates a monster.

When my children were babies I started reading to them, taking them to the library, and buying them books. Although my oldest isn't the best reader and he has difficulty sitting still for long periods of time, he will read if something really catches his interest (usually a book about nature or hunting). My oldest dau would read one book after another about horses and animals; she had so many she passed them on to her younger siblings. My second dau loves to read teen romances, and the youngest boy, who’s 6, adores anything in book form. He even checks out adult library books about prehistoric creatures, space, insects, etc., to have someone read them to him, and he’s a stellar reader of books for his age range and a little older. He pours over books that teaches him about life, animals, science, etc., and wears my brain out asking me questions about everything.

The love of reading has to start in the home!

There are many, many writers who come to read 4SW. You want readers to buy your books, but if the number of readers are dwindling.... Scary, isn’t it?

I’ve started a group called Escape into Books. It was launched yesterday. Although I’m still tweaking things and creating stuff for the group, members are welcome to join now. This group is for discussing books, for discussing heroes, heroines, the love of series, and problems such as the younger generation’s aversion to reading, and anything else that deals with books, the written word, and reading. And yes, there is a promo day for authors, but it’s Mondays only and 1 promo per author.

I hope you’ll sign up for the group. My plan is to share the books we’ve read. Our likes about such and such title (no bashing of any author or publisher), why we’re addicted to a particular series, how you fell in love with a hero, and much, much more.

Once you're membership is approved, read the post with the header Attention Members. Click the graphic to go to the group and join!

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By the way, if you haven’t answered the question on my IMRC Books excerpt, hurry on over there and jump in while you can. The deadline for entries is Friday, Sept. 2, midnight. Here’s the direct link: http://www.irmcbooks.com/?p=899

15 comments:

Ray said...

I have hundreds if not thousands of books, but lately I have gone electronic. I still have several paperbacks I haven't read. I was later than most in my groups to go to a Kindle.

I feel as strongly about math going electronic at a too young age. I can recognize an error on a calculator's answer as soon as I see it. You have to learn math before your try to cheat with electronic help. Kids working at fast food places can't even count out change. They are only able to give back the change shown on the screen.

As customers they would not know if they had been cheated if they didn't have a printed receipt along with the change.

My children are all avid readers. My oldest son learned to read by the time he was three. My second oldest is a teacher and my daughter is a nurse. My grandchildren are another matter. Two of them never finished high school. One hates to read anything that is not on Facebook or a text on her phone. The other can barely read.

I am not sure if their inability to like reading is due to electronics or unenthusiastic teachers.

Ray

Anthology Authors said...

Lily loves books. I read to her frequently. What does she like? If it's a book, she likes it. (g) Okay, she doesn't like scary stories, but, other than that, she will read anything. LOL She has a great vocabulary too.

I was having a similar conversation yesterday with people on Facebook. This was about schools not teaching kids cursive. (Apparently, they don't even teach them to type, so the kids have to hunt and peck.) So, if kids can't write, can't read, can't spell, and can't do math, where does that leave future generations? Heck, where does that leave us when we hit our dotage? It's a scary thought.

BTW, I have it all planned out and have food and water for a week or so should a disaster hit. I wasn't a Boy Scout, but living in the land of earthquakes, I believe in being prepared. :)

Fabian Black said...

When I was a child the only way to escape was via the pages of a book. Cinema visits were a rare treat for folks on a tighter than tight budget.

A visit to the local library to check out the shelves and seek out new authors and new titles was a genuine thrill

I read to my children from them being tiny babies and they're still both enthusiastic readers of the written, and printed word. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a new book to unwrap.

Nowadays children want and expect more 'sophisticated and high tech' means of escape and engaging their imagination.

They want gadgets and computer games, they want special effects and high octane thrills. They want it laid out in glorious technicolour. A simple book struggles to compare and a visit to the local library (if you can find one that hasn't been closed due to government spending cuts) is, well, boring to most kids now.

Even schools don't seem to encourage children to develop a love of reading and literature anymore. They're pressured by the government to concentrate on stats, so lessons are tailored to getting passes and meeting targets. If kids associate literature and books with joyless pressure then how are they going to learn to love reading for its own sake?

It's sad.

Libby.

Faith said...

Afternoon, Ray!

OMG, I have such a huge beef with the schools over _making_ kids use calculators. How the heck are they going to learn math using a calculator? Not to mention having to buy a new science calc every time another kids steps on it or it's lost on the bus, etc. And when my youngest dau was put in a tutor class for math last year, the teacher didn't teach, she gave the kids the answers!

Lack of being able to read or lack of enthusiasm for it is a combination of things. It really disturbs me.

Marci, our schools in Ohio have stopped requiring kids to do their homework in cursive once they learn. As long as it's legible and has the kid's name on it, they can print. I think it's wrong, but I guess it has to do with everything going electronic.

The government has a lot to answer for, Libby, but the blame seems to always land on everyone else. You are 100% right about pressuring kids to hit targets.

My older kids seem to think my love of learning, writing, and reading is lame. Yeah, the older girl reads, but she's more concerned about instant gratification now too. My oldest boy hated learning despite all my teaching and influence. He wanted hands-on stuff like mechanics, hunting, etc., but like I said, he will read a book if it's something that really captures his attention, but now that he works, that's a rarity.

I can see the future now. There will be a small number of us who are like that magical person in the house in the woods with the library full of magic and mystery, but everyone believes our existence is a myth.

Paul McDermott said...

Faith,
As a UK-based writer I can only add my agreement with your sad observation. I was also appalled that the feral mobs (especially in that Cesspool of the World, aka London) seemed not to realise that a Bookshop was,in fact ... a Bookshop. Perhaps they were 'spared' because the thugs didn't know what they were?

I'll end here becuse I don't want to hijack Faith's blog. I could write chapter and verse on this, perhaps I might come back with another comment later on?
Paul

Faith said...

Hi Paul. I do know what you mean. We've been dealing with such flash mobs in the States too. The mayor of Philadelphia, PA sure has his hands full (and now there's hurricane flooding to add to the problem).

Ellen said...

The upside to that bookstore not being trashed is that all those wonderful books weren't ruined. That's a plus. But yes, it is a sad commentary on life when the value of the book isn't recognized. But then, thugs are thugs and there was no money in it for them to destroy the windows to get at the books inside.

The love of the written word has to start at home. It can't wait until the child is in school, for a teacher to try to instill that emotion. If the parent is waiting for that, the moment has passed. I started reading to my daughter when she was old enough to sit still for a short story. We read together every night until she became a teenager. The bedtime story became part of her nightly routine, which exists to this day. And she's 23 now.

She still reads voraciously, and has stacks of books around her apartment. But she grew up reading and watching mom read. And while I read electronically now (as do a lot of people), I don't think 'books' are dead. Paperbacks are simply a format. People will choose to read whatever is comfortable for them, and that is fine with me.

Tony-Paul said...

I agree, I agree! You ladies have the most cogent and topical blogs! I still say print is here to stay. I've a reader but it's for use while I sit in the doc's office or anywhere that a print book would be too bulky or heavy. Give me a page I can turn and a cover I can refer to while I read, anyday. I sat down one day and tried to think of why I prefer print books and it came down to one thing...the impermanency of ebooks. AS you said. One magnetic pulse and your library is gone.

One question about that London looting: why was the bookstore spared? Divine inervention or unconscious human respect for the printed word?

Fiona McGier said...

The book store was probably spared because there's no big money to be made in selling "hot" books! That all happens on the internet with eBooks!

I raised my 4 young adult kids to love reading, so they are all honors students. The ability to imagine, to think logically and analyze data, is something you develop gradually, over years of doing it. The brain is like any other muscle: challenge it and it grows. Feed it junk like reality TV and it will stultify and de-volve into a gooey mess!

Rent the movie Idiocracy if you want a frighteningly prescient view of the future, if we keep heading the way we're going now. I've done my part with my kids, and I've tried for 8 years of subbing, to get hired as an English teacher, so I could teach teens the value of the written word. I seem to be a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, so I fear I'm gonna have to give up that dream.

Anthology Authors said...

This article was posted through a Yahoo group: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/30/death-books-exaggerated.

The article doesn't take inflation into account, though. And I think, too, it doesn't take into the account that a number of the younger generation expect to be able to buy eBooks for pennies. (sigh) I think that will be one of the biggest things we'll have to deal with as time progresses.

Fabian Black said...

"And I think, too, it doesn't take into the account that a number of the younger generation expect to be able to buy eBooks for pennies. (sigh) I think that will be one of the biggest things we'll have to deal with as time progresses."

Speaking for myself I think it's wrong for ebook authors to have to sell their hard, hard work, graft and craft (in many cases something they've worked days, weeks, months, even years on) for less than the price of a cup of mediocre coffee. Ebook readers have been lead to expect a well-written, beautifully packaged product for next to nothing.

As an indie author who pays cover artists, freelance editors and proofreaders, I simply cannot afford to sell at the current popular model of $0.99. I'm sure it works well for authors with a huge distribution network behind them, but for authors like me, it's a killer and means I have to decide whether it's worth my while to publish at all. I'll always write, because I love writing, but I don't know whether I'll continue to publish.

Best,

Libby

Janice said...

I come from a family of readers. I've been an avid reader since the age of thirteen. My dad who didn't have much education past the seventh grade, read slowly (Mostly SF). My mom who taught me to read and reads herself (mostly sweet romance). My sister also reads a great deal (horror).

My daughter has read all the Harry Potter books and is now sharing book wit her BFF (YA vampire genre but no sparkling vampires).

However, my nephew I helped raise doesn't read and neither does my brother and daughter BF. My husband doesn't read much either.

I wonder if women just read more than men?

Janice~

Faith said...

Ellen, you do make a good point.

Idiocracy. Seems I've heard of that one, Fiona. I'll watch for that movie and give it a try.

Buy ebooks for pennies? Hell, so many people buy 'em and pass 'em around for free now. It's so frustrating and so much money is lost because of this.

Libby, I think ebooks need to be within a certain price range. I agree with you that 99 cents is giving our work away. I have a publisher who slashed some of my books's prices so badly that although I sell many copies of them, I make zilch because I only get like 3 or 4 cents per copy after the distributor and the publisher take their cuts. However, I won't pay over $7 for an ebook (depending on length, however) because I think big publishers charging $10 to $20 for an ebook is ridiculous.

Hi Janice. My love of reading comes from my mother. When I was li'l I remember her reading two Harlequin romances a day. Now she reads a lot of non-fiction because she gets so ticked at some of the crap that's being churned out in the fiction world, lol. Anyway, when I started reading, I went from reading Paddington Bear to The Black Stallion books to The Shannara Series and onward.

Tracy Rowan said...

I saw that story too, and was saddened by it. But it occurs to me that there may be something else at work here. Looting wasn't the only reason for the violence and vandalism; there was a message being sent about the unwillingness to accept the status quo any longer. Things were being torn down. But what remained? The bookstore. Perhaps the bookstores were untouched as much because of a strong respect for the printed word as because no one wanted to steal anything. If they didn't garner a measure of respect, then they might have been smashed or torched too.

I doubt we'll ever know why that store remained untouched, but I'd like to think that it had some special glamour about it that made the rioters back away, thinking "No, not the bookstore. It's worth more than this."

Faith said...

I pray you're right, Tracy. What they did in the looting, fires, etc., wasn't right, but maybe there could be a li'l grain of hope in the whole ordeal.