The occasional observations of Carolyn Kephart, author

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Scribbling Itch

12:21 PM PST, November 15, 2008

November is, and has been since 1998, National Novel Writing Month. According to recent studies, many more Americans are writing instead of reading, and no wonder.

One of Paul Simon's songs begins with the feeling observation "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school/It's a wonder I can think at all." By the same token, when I consider the fiction I was forced to read far too soon in that ill-remembered milieu, I can't blame anyone for not cracking a book after graduation. Wuthering Heights and The Scarlet Letter I especially recall as sheer torment, inflicted by the overworked bored on the restless apathetic, taught in a total vacuum with no attention paid to the utterly foreign worlds in which they were set, or the life and times of the authors who created them. What astounds me most is that these books and others of their dour ilk are still being forced upon luckless high schoolers in the same sullen, context-free manner decades later, in a milieu that has changed so much that the name Miranda no longer evokes a brave new world or even Huxley (another author I read far too soon), but instead a cop-uttered formula. Incredibly, it's still a self-perpetuating given that no one voluntarily reads a novel after high school, and since this sole brush with literature will be the last, it needs must be forcibly administered like bitter medicine. For all too many the loathing engendered lasts a lifetime...a stunted, light-deprived lifetime. Some disturbing information can be found at this site, beginning with "1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives." I won't go into the 1/3 of the population that doesn't graduate at all.

Still, there's hope. Lots of people survive high school with their love of reading intact, as I did. Like many others, I look forward to at least a minor renaissance with the upcoming presidency. A holistic approach to literature might come into fashion, thanks to the Internet's invaluable ease of access and wealth of resources that make learning an at least physically effortless pleasure, and galvanize independent spirit of inquiry. Miranda just might rediscover that dream she believed in -- I re-read Brave New World recently online, and it was terrific. I only hope that a Google search someday finds her Shakespeare version in less than the few hundred entries it currently entails.


A wealth of sites offer the entire world's best reading at no cost, and here are three of my favorites:
The Digital Book Index



CK

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