Have we ever lived in a more wonderful age for readers? Self-published authors can reach a huge audience cheaply; the "long tail" means books with a tiny appeal can still be read; and popular successes are still commanding huge audiences, in hundreds of thousands or even millions.Well, gosh, Julia, you say - surely he's right here?
Well, read on:
But the internet that presents any classic you can think of, pretty well, may be the thing that makes it harder to read that classic.Errr...
Technology is one thing, impossible to resist or address, but another, more puzzling, is the institutional attitude towards books and reading. We all pay lip service to the importance of reading, but no public body seems very interested in serving it.Ahhh, yes. Forget that the Internet and, more specifically, the e-book phenomenon, has brought instant access to books. If the State ain't involved, it ain't working properly..!
Front Row, where Rendell raised the question, is one of very few places on BBC radio where books can be mentioned, and does a very good job on an excruciatingly tiny budget. British terrestrial television hasn't had any kind of book programme for years – it engages with literature in rare, brisk dramatisations. What does television do, very happily? Well, a glance at BBC's schedules today shows five complete hours devoted to antiques, or, more accurately, junk-shop bargaining, and another two to baking. Is it not conceivable that half of one of those hours might, very cheaply, be devoted to talking about the passion of millions in this country: books?Why? Most of the first half of your article shows that there isn't a problem. In fact, you haven't even outlined what you believe to be a problem in the rest of the article, except for this vagueness:
But when the American author George Saunders talks about "the very real (what feels like) neurological effect of the computer and the iPhone and texting and so on – it feels like I've re-programmed myself to become discontent with whatever I'm doing faster", everyone must recognise the sensation.*baffled face*
I have a suggestion to affirm literature at the centre of our national life. Doctors, currently, operate to an official recommendation of no more than 21 units of alcohol (for men) a week, no less than five pieces of fruit or vegetable a day. Why shouldn't the government encourage the simple question: "Are you reading enough?"Well, maybe because no-one listens to government on anything else?