Sunday, February 1, 2009

It's official, there is nothing to watch on TV

Good news everybody, the dumbening has stopped.

For the first time in more than 25 years, adults in this country are reading more literature, according to a study by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Apparently, the number of people reading literature — defined as novels, short stories, plays or prose — has leaped seven percent since 2002.

This can only mean one thing. Creditors are repossessing televisions.

Of course, to qualify as a reader of literature, you only have to read one fiction book a year. That’s right, one “Goodnight Moon” and you’re in. Granted, more than 100 million people still didn’t qualify.

But good news is good news, and I shouldn’t be cynical about more people reading.

Some interesting tidbits from NEA’s study:

1. The biggest leap came from 18- to 24-year-olds. An additional nine percent of us — I can still say “us” for another 10 months — qualified as readers. I wonder how much Harry Potter and Twilight buoyed those numbers.

2. Poetry is still on the decline despite reading’s overall rise. That’s no shock. There are almost no outlets for new poets, unless they also play guitar and have the cheekbones of a runway model. Then, they can get a record deal.

3. Nearly 15 percent of all U.S. adults read literature online in 2008. I can’t imagine how. If I read more than 10 pages on a computer, my eyes cross. The phosphorescence emanating from the monitor makes it difficult for me to focus. In fact, I have to take several nap breaks while preparing each blog post.

Dozens of factors contributed to the reading upswing — writers’ strikes and reality programming drove people away from television. The economy kept people away from concerts and other events. (I’d say the recession hurt Hollywood, but box office numbers were up in 2008. I guess we still had enough money to see The Dark Knight three times.)

Also, a series of blockbuster movies — the aforementioned Potters, Spyderwick Chronicles, Chronicles of Narnia, even Lord of the Rings — got kids reading the source material. (Name the last movie you took your kids to see that wasn’t based on a book? Not counting Pixar films.)

So we’re reading more. Sure, we’re not reading poetry and about 15 percent of us are squinting at a monitor that will ultimately blind us; but, otherwise, it’s all good news.

--Jason Lea,

P.S. Actually, all of us are squinting at a monitor that will blind us, unless you have the hardcover version of my blog... which doesn't exist.



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