8.25.2007

Reading books: A quaint old-fashioned pastime

News item: Americans don't read much anymore, particularly books. A long time ago (longer than I care to admit), I was an English major at college, and growing up I read widely, consequently when it came time to take standardized tests of language skills, I tended to score more than merely "OK". I remember taking the GRE several years after graduating, the math parts were a struggle (I got a hold of a high school algebra textbook, and taught myself again, what I hadn't paid much attention to the first time), whereas I found the language parts of the test to be quite entertaining.

Now, however, I'm almost as guilty of not reading books as anyone else. Part of it is growing older, part of it is working too much, and part of it is being surrounded by a short attention span culture. Occasionally something still captures my imagination and sucks me in (like Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, I purchased a copy after hearing her give a reading at the Stowe Library earlier this summer), but this kind of experience is increasingly rare. And I can't blame television for this, I live without TV and don't miss it much at all -- though too much of my time is consumed online, on this (largely reader-less) site, flickr, photoblog, and various news sites. Perhaps the Internet connection is the next thing I should unplug?

So last weekend we stopped at a lawn sale while driving out to Groton (where there are hummingbirds) and I bought three books for the princely sum of $2 (the other title was a work on F. Scott Fitzgerald's milieu). This 1922 "Reader's Library" edition of Robinson Crusoe contains a preface that is unimaginable in today's world of Ipods, cell phones that play video, texting, YouTube, hundreds of cable channels, all the high tech distractions of modern life. There's very little today that pretends to be for the "entertainment and instruction of old and young" -- the emphasis is more on entertainment these days, and on segmenting audiences by age, and usually skewed towards the 'youth' segment of the market.

(Now, considering that this was printed during the Roaring Twenties, it may be that this was hopelessly naive and idealistic even back then.)

I've never read a Zane Grey novel, this musty copy may keep me amused for awhile, or maybe not. For $0.66 I felt like giving it a try.

On the subject of books, I have to go to this event at the Barre library next week, seems like there are some cool events happening in Barre. The library is also having a raffle for some Zevon memorabilia, if they are still selling tickets when I get there I will certainly purchase a few entries.

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