Saturday, September 30, 2006
A strange article by Nick Hornby today pursues the rather tenuous theme of what people read during the long hot summer. (Long? Hot? Well, July yes, but August emphatically no.) Hornby wanders through a random list of the books he saw people reading in Islington. From this somewhat arbitrary sample, he seems to draw two distinctly inconclusive conclusions. First, people don't necessarily read books that are among the bestsellers. Secondly, neither do they read heavyweight literature in large quantities - he provides the excuse that the summer was very 'hot'. Neither of these conclusions arise in any meaningful way from his observations. But - and this is the real point - he then goes on to defend reading for reading's sake, quoting disapprovingly Harold Bloom's observation that he'd rather his children read nothing at all than read Harry Potter. Hornby concludes with the usual consolingly conventional thought that the book is not dead, lots of them are, in fact, read. Well, I'm with Bloom. Reading almost all books currently being published is even worse for your soul than watching home makeover shows or eating Yakult. People should not read more, they should read better. Or, failing that, they should sit quietly in a darkened room thinking.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:31 am