A Novelist's View

How many people read a book today?  I'd make a guess,but the number would be so low that it could prove embarrassing for the nation.  I know people are reading the web, blogs, surfing for techie items, playing games, posting on Twitter.  I know they're watching TV, cooking dinner, bathing, driving, working, and kissing the baby.  But not many of them are reading a novel.  Novel reading has become an activity akin to letter writing.  It's terribly old-fashioned.  There are too many distractions.  Too much to do. Too many crises and campaign speeches and chores to get done.  Read a book?  Heaven forbid. 

 Imagine the days before the internet, before television.  There was radio making inroads in the entertainment field,but still a majority of people found solace and value in reading novels.  After TV became commonplace in every home, books began to take the back seat.  They moved out of the shelves in the living room, off the cofeetable and were shuffled somewhere else in the home.  It was hard to read and concentrate when the TV blared.  Besides, TV excited the senses in a new way.  It took less concentration,less imagination, and was entertaining.  Reading was work.  It took a semblance of quiet and even solitude in order to become totally immersed in the experience of the fictional world.  Then computers showed up, computer gaming, the internet, and finally the death knell of the book began to sound loudly.  Books were read more often on a jet or on the beach than in the living room.  Books were sidelined like the Edsel was overhadowed by the Corvette.  Old, outdated, almost useless.

 I'm a novelist, therefore my view is going to be skewed.  I believe in the wirten word, what I am using right now in a blog, and I believe in indulgiung the imagination, in living in the worlds authors devise, in the pure entertainment value of reading fiction. I also love television and I love the internet (I've been gabbing with my fellow computer freaks since before the internet was formed, when there was something called BBSs, or Bulletin Board Services, that connected people in cities, via the computer and phone line, to other people in other cities.)   I own a Zen and put all my CD music on it.  I own XM radio.  I have flat-screened LCD televisions.  I have enough tech toys to fill a large corner of an electronics store, but none of the new technologies have ever been able to substitute for reading one good book.

 I don't expect the world to return to letters written by hand and sent through the mails, not when we have instant emails.  I don't expect the world to go backwards.  But if we give up every single advancement in order to replace it with the next new thing, then sometimes we cheat ourselves.  Books should be forever.  The novelist, who supplies Hollywood with some of their best movies from their works, who supply television with both movies and series from their books, aren't totally neglected in the world of entertainment yet,but if we continue to hand our children a new XBox game or DVD movie instead of a new book, we can't expect the next generations to even understand the idea of reading for pleasure, and with each passing generation the book becomes more obsolete.  I think it would be a sad, underprivileged world if there was no novel to be found to read, no new works, no new stories, the author, the novelist, having been driven out by newer technologies that crowd out the fictional worlds found in print.  

Have you read a page of a book today?  A chapter?  Or did you read only my blog asking if you have read any fiction at all in the past six months?  It's food for thought.


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