Posts Tagged ‘Sally Warhaft’
Tuesday, August 24th, 2010
Headlines is a new segment on the Book Show where we look at the latest news in publishing, writing and reading. Sally Warhaft and Jeff Sparrow, editor of Overland, contemplate the meaning of these Headlines. Listen to the audio here.
Recently author Jonathan Franzen was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. This is meant to be a big deal. Since the late 70s there have been 15 other authors. Franzen is the first living author in 10 years. The last was Stephen King when he published his story digitally. But there’s something strange and unsettling about the cover of Time that Franzen adorns: the background is quite drab and Franzen himself is looking distracted and glum. Why isn’t he smiling?Jeff Sparrow thinks it’s because literary fiction is no longer considered the preeminent form of cultural expression. It’s been taken over by genre fiction and bizarro fiction and has shifted to new media forms like video games. There’s now video games of The Great Gatsby and Dante’s Inferno.
Sally doesn’t read bizarro fiction. She says life’s too short. But she is interested in the program for prison offenders in the US who can choose between going to jail or joining a book club, the program’s called Changing Lives Through Literature. Is the idea behind this that reading makes you a better person? Sally says yes. Ramona interviewed Jay Parini about teaching Robert Frost to young people who had trashed Frost’s house in a party. He said Many people have asked how the classes I taught to these vandals were different from my normal university classes. I said, ‘Most of my kids at Middlebury College don’t come to class in handcuffs.’ So it was a challenge.
It’s not clear whether the prison offenders are taught to read slowly either. You’ve heard of slow food, slow travel, even slow photography and now there’s slow reading. It’s an acknowledgement that life in our hyper-connected times doesn’t allow for deep reading. We’re more likely to flick from page to page. Sally doesn’t get time for slow reading as much as she’d like and Jeff is dubious about it as a movement. It has something of the middle class nostalgia for better, less hectic days.