Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Who Reads Anyway?

I have just read an article detailing how literary classics are disappearing from library shelves around the country. They've been culled. Since no one was reading them, the librarians decided to remove them from the shelves. According to the article, in one county, thousands of novels were eliminated after a new computer software program showed that they hadn't been checked out within the last two years.

According to this Washington Post article by Lisa Rein, "Like Borders and Barnes & Noble, Fairfax [County ] is responding aggressively to market preferences, calculating the system's return on its investment by each foot of space on the library shelves -- and figuring out which products will generate the biggest buzz. So books that people actually want are easy to find, but many books that no one is reading are gone -- even if they are classics."

The article continues: "We're being very ruthless," said Sam Clay, director of the 21-branch system since 1982. "A book is not forever. If you have 40 feet of shelf space taken up by books on tulips and you find that only one is checked out, that's a cost.
Classics such as Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" are among the titles that haven't been checked out in two years and could be eliminated, although some librarians have so far decided to keep them."

Nothing makes me feel more mortal than this. Nothing makes me want to stop writing more than this.

Maybe it's a good thing. Maybe we need those forty feet. However it hurts to think of all the great literature that will go the way of the dodo. That already has evaporated in favor of DVD and CD.

I know this is pointless, but here's something I plan on doing. My own little gesture. I'm taking out books. When I go to the library next, I'm taking out a minimum of five books, and at least two of those will be classic works of literature to preserve.

Otherwise the fire trucks will be coming to burn the books, not to put the fires out.


SQT said...

God, that's sad. Is no one reading the classics to their classes anymore? I remember teachers reading The Cask of Amontialldo and To Kill a Mockingbird to us in class. We would read and watch Shakespeare. What are they doing now that these classics sit on the shelf getting dusty?

Susan Miller said...

How interesting...I went to the bookstore this afternoon and noticed at least five variations of covers for To Kill a Mockingbird, tons of Orwell and Shakespeare.

I just browsed the literature section looking for something that interested me and was impressed by their collection of the classics.

This article that you speak of seriously does come as a surprise to me.

Miranda said...

I am not surprised by this since both my husband and I are dismayed by how few classics our children read in school. Heck, I'm dismayed by how few books my 8th grade son reads for his language arts class.

Thankfully, he at least reads some pretty decent sci-fi on his own but that is not the same as being challenged with reading classic novels from a wide range of genres.

I think this post and your post lamenting the death of cultural literacy go hand in hand.

Vwriter said...

Books are simply the hymnals of a rapidly dwindling cult. The only thing that keeps reading alive at all is the still limited bandwidth of our communications networks, a condition jealously maintained and guarded by those clannish dwellers of the dark who maintain that there is a "special" quality to the reading experience akin to those people with central heat who install artificial fireplaces in their dens so they can create a more "homey" environment.

So what if the books burn and the characters and stories with them? Keep them alive in digitally archived format in case future idea archaeologists can mine something of value from them that can't be found in an expert program.

Books define the two dimensionality of our stories by their "first this and then that" structure, encase the immediancy of ideas in form, and provide the epistimological framework of visual logic that limits our thinking.

Surely to Heisenberg there must be a superior way to live a story than by reading. Think of it this way- the average reader reads at 250 words per minute. The clunky words defining that experience take so much longer to slog through than it does to experience the event described that it changes the nature of the intended communication. 250 words per minute.

250 words per minute. If we really want to slow down the potential of the human mind, keep the books coming. Install an artificial fireplace, keep grinding up trees to make pages, and keep dreaming that ideas presented in book format are the hope of the human mind.

Reading is kept alive for the same reason that the combustion engine is- we had it when we were kids. Many people that think reading should be saved also believe that gasoline smells good.

Then again, you are reading this...

Stewart Sternberg said...

SQT...the classics can't be taught as they were. Teachers today must make sure the students can pass the state accountability exams and must teach to that.

This is what I was referring to in my posting on cultural literacy. These classics are our heritage, they are our natural resource.

Sue, you are right, there are tons of copies of To Kill A Mockingbird available. Schools buy them by the gross. I think the issue is library by library having to make choices.

Miranda, it's a tough call. If we aren't giving students the tools to value the classics, then how do we teach the classics? And are parents reading the classics? Are parents encouraging their children to go to the library? Are parents bringing home books to their teens and saying, "Here, I saw this and thought of you."

Again, when you go the library, pick up a couple of extra books, maybe a Steinbeck, Bradbury, or Fitzgerald. Books that go out aren't culled from the rosters.

One good thing are the texts that are being scanned and being made available through online download. Although I doubt anyone will read those either.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Okay, Rick is getting cranky, and I'm sending him to the corner.

So tell me, Rick, is it your intention to give up writing? Are you going to start distilling experience for direct input into cortex. What a curmudgeon.

There is nothing like a book. Two dimensional and clunky.

Skittles said...

I've read and own all the books you mentioned. They're being removed??? That is just a ghastly thought. I'm enraged!!!!

Vwriter said...

Okay, so I'm having a bad writing day. I blame that frigging Twilight Zone marathon they ran on the SciFi channel on New Year's Day. They showed that hideous Burgess Meredith episode where he breaks his glasses and is surrounded by books. Didn't Harlan Ellison do a short story called "I Have No Eyes But I Must Read?" You know the one.

Also, I have a writing friend who actually bought Dramatico Pro, which helps creates plots, character, settings, and you name it. So I told her, "Hey, pretty soon the software won't even need you to write the story." She said, "Nah." But she was nervous when she said it.

Plus, on Christmas Eve my nephews were playing this "X-Box" video game and when I told them, "Hey, why don't you read a book instead?" one of them actually said, "What, and lose the 3-D experience?"

Okay, so I'm headed for the corner.

Susan Miller said...

But, Stu, doesn't this mean that people are just visiting the library less?

If these books were not being read the people that expected to make money off of them would be the first to unshelf them, right? The library is making room on limited shelving because more books are being written and published, right? Good thing.

If people were not buying or reading the classics then the bookstore would be the first to abandon them. I know this because I'm not a writer...I'm in American business. We do not sell what does not sell...there is no sympathy here.

Now back to my new book, but I did buy my first copy of To Kill a Mockingbird today.

Miranda said...

I like the idea of checking out a classic at every trip the library. I'm a pretty eclectic reader although I tend not to check out books I have already read.

I can (and do) drop books my son's way, but nothing can replace discussing a good book in a more organized setting.

I tutor college students in English and I am taken aback every semester when I draw out their previous reading and writing experiences. Most of them are fresh out of high school and find simply reading ~50 pages a week daunting.

As many of you know, this directly affects their written literacy.

Stewart Sternberg said...


I agree Sue, there is a business model at work. And bookstores shouldn't be expected to carry that which doesn't sell. However, a library holds our culture in trust, it is an institution funded by the people and not a money making enterprise.

Actually, I do have a gripe with bookstores. The mom and pop shops which had such character and variety are now gone to be replaced by the corporate giants. It's harder than ever to be published for the mainstream. A corporation handpicks what is hot and what is not, and not necessarily the consumer. True, the consumer doesn't have to make the buy, but then what's the alternative for the majority of people.

People don't want to wait or work..they want things quick and easy. Tell me something is good, and make sure it's available.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Fifty pages a week, Miranda. It makes one wonder.

Pythia3 said...

So, then someone will have to create virtual bookcases too, uh? I am a visual person, but mostly I am a hands on learner. I need to feel the front cover in my left hand and the back cover in my right hand and the pages turning under my nose. And like I still love the smell of freshly picked office supplies and ripely sharpened pencils. OK, so we grew up with all of it, like the combustion engine, and therefore we fight to keep it alive . . . but the basics: the classic books (books in general), paper and pencils, shoe laces and multiplication tables are the REAL and firm foundations, and without them, everything would be built on sandy ground.
I agree with Stewart, we need to go out in masses and check out the classics from our local libraries. We need to take action to stop these precious books from being bulldozed to put up high rise lofts so builders can create neighborhood communities . . . oh, that's another subject!
By the way . . . I'm back!
Happy New Year Stewart - I missed you! Big HUG!

Crunchy Carpets said...

It is a complicated thing.
I mean.....how long does something stay a classic? When does something 'newer' replace it as a classic.

What happens when only historic relevance is left and the cultural aspect is a thing of the past?

When I was in Uni doing my English Major I was astounded at how many people did not get or knew the biblical references that peppered the great works of literature and poetry.

There was so much time teaching the biblical relevance and analogy as well as the historical era of not only when the book was written but what it happened to be writing about.

Things that people just 'knew' no longer exists.

Culturaly we have moved on.

This is part and parcel of a more global 'village' that we live in and not just the evils of tv!

People who are not European in background or Christian in background or colonial in their origins do not feel the same passions or interest in the 'classics' as we all once did.

I have never actually 'revered' Shakespeare. I think he is the Steven King of his time and there will be a time when people are collecting the great works of King and doing plays and so on.

who knows.

SQT said...

I love Shakespeare. I hear more people who quote Shakespear than any other writer ever, only most people don't even realize they're paraphrasing the Bard.

Personally I think he is on a level waaaaay above that of Stephen King. He had an understanding of human nature that transends time, which is why he is still relevant today. Stephen King is fine for what he is, but I don't see him having the longevity of Shakespeare.

Susan Miller said...

When Slater and I were in New Mexico we visited a painter who was doing a fantastic mural of his people's history on the walls of a very beautiful church. It was a moment in time that I am thankful my son and I shared.

And it got to me thinking.

That man was preserving his culture so we must all take steps to do the same. Sure, let's all go check out some library books...what will that hurt? So I'm with you also, Stu.

Not necessarily controversy, but I'm not the type either to rely on a government establishment to preserve my culture. CUZ then, my friend, I could get disappointed.

What I do now is buy those books and keep them. I used to give them away. Whenever I would read a good book I thought it was my duty to pass it on. More recently I have felt like clutching to it a bit.

Tell the publishers I'm demanding Maloney! I still, maybe naively, believe it is about the consumer in the end....and again from what I saw they/we are buying the classics.

mist1 said...

I have lots of classics. They are propping up my desk.

Danny Tagalog said...

It's really sad if these classics are being slowly erased from upcoming generations' consciousness. Has modern literature produced works fit to replace those mentioned?

About Shakespeare - irrespective of the belief (that is intriguing in itself) that he wasn't the sole writer of 'his' works (how could we tell) - he helped secure the future of English, or at least strengthened it, paving the way for the our modern English.

So, despite being English and occasionally sick of seeing Japanese teachers stick to using Shakespeare (and *moan, moan* Beatles references), the Bard of Avon should stay a main part of any literature course... for now.

Crunchy Carpets said...

I don't know..yes we quote Shakes a lot....but I still get the feeling he was the Sidney Sheldon of his era.

His plays were for the masses. And nothing wrong with that. But if he was around today he would run Fox Television.

He managed to communicate to the common man of his time.

I think we have placed him on a bit too high of a pedestal....why people tend to be intimidated by him and his works today.

And maybe that is the case with all 'classics'...maybe the way they are presented and taught is what puts people and young people off today.

There is still this idea that some works are up their...brainy and esoteric.

When it really just boils down to language and historical context.

I think the snob factor needs to go and perhaps the classics need a good PR co. to rep them!

SQT said...

It was Shakespeare's appeal to the everday man that makes him important IMO.

He did play for the masses and he was quite the entertainer. But still, to have survived all this time I think is a true testment to his talent.

I honestly am not a big fan of anything that strives to be too high brow. I've chucked a fair number of books that the critics loved that I just couldn't stand.

Ayn Rand is an example. I know so many people who love her and I gag at the sight of her books. Personally I think the books try to damn hard and shove their point down your throat.

But to each his own.

Nikeroo said...

You know Stewart I never could read scifi, classic or otherwise. So it's disappearance off the bookshelves in the library wouldn't really bother me.

Now I'm wondering why I don't like this kind of fiction...

I used to read some fanatasy like C.L Lewis and "The Folk of the Faraway Tree" by Enid Blyton...but when I was just a wee lass.

Is there a particular personality "type" that likes SFi/fan and a "type" that doesn't?

Crunchy Carpets said...

"Is there a particular personality "type" that likes SFi/fan and a "type" that doesn't?"

Hmmm it's all personal isn't it?

I mean I gag at Maeve Binchy or those Diana Gabaldon things that people (women) go on and on about.

They do nothing for me.
Whereas I can totally immerse myself in good sci fi. And sci fi covers a huge range too.

There is loads of it that I can't read or find ....unchallenging or something....

I like character driven stories that also challenge me on different levels..if I find non sci fi that does it I am happy too.

I also enjoy the 'fantasy' of sci fi.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Nice photo choice for this current topic. It's all about supply and demand, whether it's a book or a video. Personally, I'm waiting for Will Ferrell's latest movie to go MVP at Hollywood. Also, they can take the Hemingway books off the shelves. What really angers me is that Borders no longer has a shelf space for the small literary magazines, instead, they replaced it with comic books. So I guess I can sympathize with you a little bit.

SQT said...

I think romances have more fantasy elements to them than straight fantasy/sci-fi. I can't stand them, but I know women who eat them up.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I'll check out several classics, too, even if I already own them. It's the least we can do.

Clifford said...

Very interesting. My take? Time marches on. As much joy and fullfillment as I've received from reading and writing over the years, I can't say with certainty that I would have been a reader if, in my youth, I'd had half a billion channels to choose from (one of them all SciFi!), innumerable DVDs to watch and rewatch, and XBOX 360s and Wiis and PlayStation 3s to swallow ginormous chunks of my free time. Fiction will live on, but we as creators must be willing to do what it takes to reach our audience.

As for the classics, you can download them for free from Project Gutenberg -- why bother going to the library? Or paying for them? eBooks will keep the classics alive.

But in the end, it may be sad to see these books go, but really, if other authors, living authors, can benefit from having more of their books in print, maybe it's a good thing. Maybe our dollars should go to those people who are creating today's classics, talking to our generation, and trying to make a living at it. Sure the classics are timeless...but maybe they've had their time?

In the end, there's just too much stuff out there. The stuff at the bottom has to go ):

Nikeroo said...

vwriter... your thoughts are very provoking. As the daughter of an English teacher and a former bookshop owner I cringe..

But as a person who may witness the biggest revolution in story telling since man learned to speak, paint then write... I await your proposal for this brave new universe.

Nikeroo said...

Crunchy carpets... maybe you have a superior imagination...

SQT... I don't read romance novels either. I am only interested in non-fiction or a very slim selection of classics

...and I don't know why!

Vwriter: But interestingly enough I CAN enjoy both if presented as a decent movie!

Conclusion: Maybe I'm creatively retarded...:-(

I just just wonder if it is my concious choice, i.e "taste" or a predetermined draw-back of my "personality".

ShadowFalcon said...

That's awful. When I worked for a bookshop here in London (who were bought by Borders and hacked to pieces the evil bastards) we were always being told, if it don't sell don't keep it we are not a library.

I always thought of libraries as a place where books were safe.

It's terrible to think that if a classic can't sell dump it for the rubbish that does. Libraries are a public service, they aren't there to make money...I'm just hoping they don't start doing stuff like that over here.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Good discussion all. I have to admit that Crunchy has me thinking. I am a Shakespearean fanatic, but I understand that time marches on and while I may adore something, that doesn't mean my personal fanaticism can or should dictate public taste.

I always stop and think about all those wonderful writers who may never be read. All those great writers whose work will never be published.

Sheila said...

That sucks. I have noticed though that Barnes and Noble is having a boost of their classics. They are 5.95 and they have nifty covers and everything. I don't rent classics from the library though because I prefer to buy them and keep them in my room forever. I have To Kill A Mockingbird, A Tale of Two Cities and many more. I hope to keep expanding my collection until I have and have read them all.

Vwriter said...

Think of it this way, Stewart: one on one, Clifford the Big Red Dog would bury Shakespeare.

Charles Gramlich said...

A good plan for a little Guerilla reading. I like it. I'm going to start doing the same. This is a sad thing to hear about though, the removal of classics from the shelves. It's easy to find the popular books anywhere, but how will you ever find a lot of cool stuff if it's not there. Maybe the teachers should be teaching the kids about some of these books instead of just giving in and taking them off the shelves

Pythia3 said...

I just had an image of the Twilight Zone episode called "Time Enough at Last" where "an anti-social bookworm bank-teller, unable to be left alone to read, sleeps in the bank's safe and survives the blast of an H-bomb. He now has all the time to read, but in an ironic twist, his glasses break."
The modern day version . . . computers crash.

Vwriter said...

see what I mean, Stewart? Pythia3 saw that same stinkin' Twilight Zone episode.

Christina Rundle said...

Wow, that makes me want to cry. I can't believe libraries of all places would do this.

I have a lot to say on this, but I won't. My tongue is too spiked.

Crunchy Carpets said...

"I just just wonder if it is my concious choice, i.e "taste" or a predetermined draw-back of my "personality"."

Maybe it has something to do with what we are exposed to early on or preconcieved notions laid out. I have girl friends who have never watched an action flick because in their world girls don't do that.

And I meant no offence to anyone by the imagination thing....

And back to the topic at hand...

Our giant chain in Canada is Chapters/Indigo. And I have noticed that non fiction is quickly taking over the square footage of that store. Fiction in crammed into one area and the only separations of genre is sci fi and mysteries...the rest is all chucked together. Classics and modern....all in a corner

SQT said...

I do think our taste is influenced by what we're exposed to early in life. I have three older brothers so I grew up on action and science fiction. We are not a touchy-feely family to say the least.

As far as the whole Shakespeare thing goes, it would break my heart if he started disappearing off of book shelves. We've talked about cultural literacy and Shakespeare is way up on the list of cultural influences in my opinion. I think if we chould just show students a list of sayings that we still use that have been taken from Shakespeare they'd be amazed.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Nikeroo, science fiction has often been peripheral works. The best science fiction is that which has been used to illustrate social issues through metaphor.

Even the best fantasy has taken on some strong allegories. The Lord Of The Rings was in many ways a response to the atmosphere in Europe that led to WWII.

Stewart Sternberg said...

If you ever go to Wal-Marts and sort through their fiction, you'll find that a great percentage of the literature they have for sell are select best sellers and about whatever is on the inspirational reading list. Obviously, I buy damn little literature at Wal-Mart

James Burnett said...

Wow. That makes me sick to my stomach - the classics disappearing. That's horrible.

My folks used to make 'em required reading. They'd allow me my fill of comic books and other drivel, but the tradeoff was for every comic I read I had to read a classic too.

Damn shame.

Good post, as always, and my friend, I have not forgotten to add you to my blogroll. Swamped over the past week or so. I swear I'll do that this evening.

Happy New Year.

Rach said...

so sad....I'm going to do the same and go check some out. "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" and "Where The Red Fern Grows" are two of my favorite books.

Avery DeBow said...

While it's sad that the classics won't be available in some areas, it does free up shelf space for people who actually need to earn a living from these potential fans (who just might like an author enough to turn around and buy his next novel). Helping the living rather than enshrining the dead seems like a better idea to me.

There will always be a market for older publications, even if it is a diminished one. We can't force others to read what we read (or were forced to read), we can only suggest and hope they can put down their PS3's long enough to realize there are other things worth being excited about. As far as availability goes, the Internet is a wide and wondrous world where even seventeenth century texts on demonology are available for purchase through reprints (I know; I found them).

I suppose my view on the topic is a grim one. It all boils down to the subject of immortality -- and the realization that there is no such thing. Most of us are predestined to a "short" run before hitting the Everlasting Dust Bin. For the one in a million writer that sees a relatively prolonged fame -- the universe sucking back in on itself will take care of even that. I'm content to do well, die, and fall from print into oblivion with those who've gone before me.

Stewart, as for the joining of your quest; a while back I went into a friend's bathroom and couldn't help but take note of the library book perched on the back of the toilet. I don't check out books anymore.

Laura said...

That is such a sad thing. I can't believe that no one reads the classics anymore. I know To Kill a Mockingbird is on Sheila's book shelf. It would be a shame to rid the libraries of such wonderful classic novels. Maybe some day the only place we'll be able to find these classics will be in a museum of classic books. Wouldn't that be a pity.

C said...

Ray Bradbury is a prophet

Stewart Sternberg said...

C...Yes, Bradbury is a prophet. He is also, in my opinion, the greatest American author. But who cares about my opinion.

Avery, if I promise to stop taking the books to the potty will you change your mind? You know, all kidding aside, you make a valid point. I agree, at some point the old must make way for the new. I also agree with the earlier statement about classics ultimately being available on the net.

The problem with this issue is that it is our childhoods and our heritage, and that means it tugs at our emotions. I don't think there is a wrong or right about any of this but rather deep shades of gray.

William Jones said...

With a "career guided" culture, reading and literature seems to play a small part in the notion of education, learning, and the search for a job. While colleges and universities require some "classics" to be read, the majority of the system is designed to focus students toward a specific occupation -- and that leaves students with the question: Why do I need to read Shakespeare? Or, frightfully: Why do I need to read?

Reading is difficult, an exercise for the mind, and something that is being replaced with bullet points.

I don't think all hope is lost. But with other forms of entertainment and information at the ready, creating new readers today is a challenge. It seems we live in an "abridged" world." Has anyone listend to the audio book 60 Classics in 60 Minutes?

Avery DeBow said...

Abridgement is a longstanding institution. I read my mother's 1950's copy of Little Women for years before realizing it was a hundred pages short. My parents had shelves full of Reader's Digest condensed books, and my collection of odd antique books have more than a few "pocket novels." Still, it does seem all works in general are getting shorter -- matching modern attention spans, I guess.

What really grinds my gears is the "For Dummies," series. That's pandering to laziness in the extreme.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Abridgment always makes me feel cheated, Avery. Unless of course the abridgment is done by the author, that is something I might be more generous about.

As for "The Dummies" books, I think it depends on the topic. There are some "Dummies" books that people should be embarrassed to own. Me? I actually own all the major sports dummies (baseball, basketball, etc).only for a quick reference and to be able to offer easy explanation to certain people in my life when they ask questions like "What's a triangle defense". I also own one dummy book on voodoo. I was lazy.

Avery DeBow said...

Ah, Stewart (I'm shaking my head ruefully). Shortcuts on Voodoo lead to bad gris-gris.

And I'm no champion of abridgement. I was simply pointing out it has been around a long while.

SQT said...

The "dummies" books are also handy for crafty kinds of things, like knitting. But I don't know if they're useful when it comes to literature, isn't that like using cliff notes? (I never used those in college btw, not once, really)

I grew up on the Readers Digest condensed books though. I didn't realize when I was a kid they weren't the full story. But I'm glad we had them. I think they encouraged my love of reading by giving me something that I could handle while pretty young. And when I got older I just found a copy of the whole story and would re-read it then.

Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica said...

"We're being very ruthless," said Sam Clay. Is there anything more frightening than a cheerful monster? I'm sure the Taliban were very cheerful about blowing up those giant Buddhas.

SQT and Crunchy need to attend my Shakespeare class. He wrote on more than one level, at least three or four, not just the surface level for the groundlings, but it does takes training to find it. Should geologists stop looking for minerals because it's too much trouble and we can't just pick up the diamonds off the surface?
Trust Me On This:)

Stewart, I think there's an unconscious agenda to the corporate culture's disdain of classics. There are things in those books they don't want the students to know, questions they are uncomfortable with, and if students are exposed to those ideas, they won't become tame consumers and eager collaborationists.

Like this from Saul Bellow's in "Humboldt's Gift":

“For after all Humboldt did what poets in crass America are supposed to do. He chased ruin and death even harder than he had chased women. He blew his talent and health and reached home, the grave, in a dusty slide. He plowed himself under. Okay. So did Edgar Allan Poe, picked out of the Baltimore gutter. And Hart Crane over the side of a ship. And Jarrell falling in front of a car. And poor John Berryman jumping from a bridge. For some reason this awfulness is peculiarly appreciated by business and technological America. The country is proud of its dead poets. It takes terrific satifaction in the poets' testimony that the USA is too tough, too big, too much, too rugged, that American reality is overpowering. And to be a poet is a school thing, a skirt thing, a church thing. The weakness of the spiritual powers is proved in the childishness, madness, drunkenness, and despair of these martyrs. Orpheus moved stones and trees. But a poet can't perform a hysterectomy or send a vehicle out of the solar system. Miracle and power no longer belong to him. So poets are loved, but loved because they just can't make it here. They exist to light up the enormity of the tangle and JUSTIFY THE CYNICISM [emphasis mine] of those who say, "If I were not such a corrupt, unfeeling bastard, creep, thief, and vulture, I couldn't get through this either. Look at those good and tender and soft men, the best of us. They succumbed, poor loonies."

SQT said...


I would gladly take your Shakespeare class.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I remember when I was a kid reading Shakespeare and arguing with the English teacher that there was no way the man had intentionally put all that stuff in his work. The metaphors, the symbolism, the wordplay..all that was basically the work of people trying to hard to find something. It was the work of people trying to justify their love for his work.

I apologize to William Shakespeare. As an old man, I now know what Michael says is true, that there are oh so many levels to the Bard's work. Maybe I will do some posting s on the Bard, Michael.

Me said...

This is interesting. As you know my New Years NOT a resolution was to read poetry again. When I was an angsty, gothy teen I would skip school and hole up in the public library and read old dusty poetry books. I thought it should be easy to go online and order the same books in our library here. Imagine my horror when EVERY author I typed in came back, "item no longer availabe", "item in mends" or "this is a reference item and can not be taken out of the libary" It's true, they are vanishing. The original copies are rotting and no one's asking for them to be reordered. The library is like any business and has to order what the tax payers want. Unfortunately they want drivel and "new" and "shiny" like everything else. The only good that came out of my fruitless search was that I searched for copies to buy and I'm now awaiting an old copy of Les fleurs des Mal to arrive in the mail.

cs harris said...

We recently had a big flap about this here in New Orleans, where the idea of libraries throwing out "unread" books hit particularly hard, given that many bibliophiles had just been devastated by the loss of their own books in the flood. Libraries used to be seen of repositories of knowledge and literature. But sometime in the last 30 years they became sources of popular culture. Maybe we need a new type of institution, someplace where all the unwanted knowledge and works of literature will be preserved for that one questing mind interested in a subject or author that no one else has wanted to consult for 3 years...or maybe even four!

Crunchy Carpets said...

Ormonryd.....thanks but I had my fill of Shakes in Uni...one of our teachers was and is some international 'expert' on him and we used to see him being interviewed and going on about his latest book, etc.

He was more excited that his best friend wrote 'Speed.'

I enjoy his poetry...they are always a pleasure to read.
I cannot sit through most of the plays, I like em but would rather read them. Despite us having one of the best Summer Theatre Shakespeare companies here.

And I do 'get' levels....saying that Shakespeare wrote for the masses of his day is not an insult. He obviously knew how to reach his public on many many levels. He was a clever man. He reached many types of people by all his nuances and subtle digs and so on.

I think that they way he is presented today is what puts people off or intimidates them. The language can be daunting until you get used to it, etc.

Levels I get...I wrote a paper on the dark side of Jane Austen that was entered in a literary contest at my University...I was very honoured. I should dig it up and share it.

I do think that the 'classics' need reinvented for our ADD times...

People still connect them to school and profs and being bored out of their skulls.

I slept through a poetry class...the guy was soooo dull and it was an evening class. I still managed a B! He just had no clue on how to sell his beloved poetry to the younger generation.

And I was one of the older people in his class of fresh out of high schoolers. EESH.

SourDad said...

Now I dread the thought of ever moving away from Woundtight Township in spite of wound-tight part. At least they got the library right, it's listed as one of the top 100 public libraries in the nation. I checked out Mockingbird a couple weeks ago. It makes my short list of books I'd want if I were stuck on a desert island.

Lori Witzel said...

Well, this one set me off...or maybe it's just the low dark rainy chill weather. Pardon the long comment.

I find it almost incomprehensible that some librarians -- people with the same background as members of the American Library Association, the only group that to my knowledge fought in the courts against government requests to report what books patrons chose to read without said patrons' knowledge (they lost as I recall) -- are thinning out bookshelves based on implicit consumer popularity ratings.


And don't get me started on the whole "books as useful objects are passé, we could scan them or post text, what's the diff?" point of view.

For someone like me, who flips back and forth within a story, starts at the end and skips around with fingers doing a placeholding dance, who makes tiny notes and dog-ears (bad Lori), who brings books into the bathtub and to non-electric, out-of-wifi campsites...my first thought was "WTF?!"

I understand that not everyone does the same thing, but a book is more than its contents. It's a robust, technology-independent vehicle for the porting and transmission of the contents.

I shudder to think what I'd do trying to read my laptop in the tub...