Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Twilight of the Books" by Caleb Crain from the Dec 24&31st New Yorker

How I missed this essay when it first came out I don't know, but Caleb Crain's essay, "Twilight of the Books" from the New Yorker is enlightening and provocative. He notes, "some sociologists speculate that reading books for pleasure will one day be the province of a special “reading class,” much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy, in the second half of the nineteenth century. They warn that it probably won’t regain the prestige of exclusivity; it may just become “an increasingly arcane hobby.” Such a shift would change the texture of society." Think of the implications for biblical literacy.

I was alerted to the article by the letter from Maryanne Wolf in this week's New Yorker whose book "Proust and the Squid: The Story and the Science of the Reading Brain" is the subject of Crain's article. She writes to clarify two important points from the article: "As it develops expertise, the circuity for reading in the brain becomes both "smaller" in its streamlined regions and also "larger," that is more widely activated--in those regions engaged in sophisticated thinking like inference, critical analysis, and insight. This type of activation is the basis for 'deep reading' and the highest form of thought in a society, from novel thinking to the deliberation of virtue.My primary concern for the future of reading is that these critical areas will be short-circuited in the next generation of readers, whose formative years may be immersed too early in digitally driven media."

It turns out that Mr Crain (of course) has a blog with several entries referring to this article and providing further research and documentation. Here is much food for thought.

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