It’s Not The Death of Literature, It’s The Death of Time

November 28th, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

If we recall correctly (and when one is under the influence of the magical Alka-Seltzer Plus, no guarantees can be made), last year, we declared a ban on all stories relating to the so-called “Death of the Novel”. We have met with limited success on this ban, mostly because sheer laziness prevented us from enforcing said ban. Also, the thought of going to Boston.

Now we must expand the ban to include “The Death of Literature”. While the notion may make for sexy headlines* and hand-wringing angst, literature will not die. Literature will evolve. Home taping didn’t kill the music industry (the music industry will do that on its own). Arena rock didn’t kill music featuring jangly guitars. Decades of bad television have amazingly lead to an era of almost-good television. Yes, the world will be all right. You know how this works: many authors sit down to write great books because what they want to read isn’t sitting on the shelves. So when you hear this —

Literature is dying. Novels will become “a footnote to our technological and advertising age,” warned [Norman] Mailer.

“Literature is an endangered species,” intoned [Lawrence] Ferlinghetti.

— do not worry. If you must worry, then do something. Become a literacy tutor (yes, it’s time for our annual holiday plea. Not today, but very soon.). Donate books to school libraries. Public libraries. Senior centers. Youth centers. Read to your kids. A lot. Turn off the damn television once in a while. Get involved in local schools and demand that reading for pleasure be as much as part of the curriculum as coloring within the lines.

If you are not inclined to worry, take heart in the realization that this Internet thing is actually encouraging reading. Maybe not the kind of reading that warms Norman Mailer’s heart, but humans are interacting with words. Literature won’t die. However, finding time to sit down and enjoy a book is becoming an endangered species for today’s youth. If anything needs saving, it’s them.

* -This is, admittedly, stretching the notion of sexy to the extreme.

File Under: The Business of Publishing