I saw two movies on two consecutive weekends both of which I enjoyed. It feels like years since two somewhat proximate movies that were any good have even been in theaters, let alone run on consecutive weekends. Atonement captures the spirit of Ian McEwan’s book (we’ll see if they try On Chesil Beach) and Charlie Wilson’s War manages to be fun, engaging, political, and probably not too inaccurate. It’s based on George Crile’s Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History, a book in my Seattle Public Library queue. Not being the only person to have done this in response to the movie, I’m somewhere around 50, meaning the wait is going to take a while.
Now that I’ve mentioned movies, go read Caleb Crain’s The science of reading and its decline to make yourself wonder about the decline of the world and such:
[… T]here is no one looking back at the television viewer. He is alone, though he, and his brain, may be too distracted to notice it. The reader is also alone, but the N.E.A. reports that readers are more likely than non-readers to play sports, exercise, visit art museums, attend theatre, paint, go to music events, take photographs, and volunteer. Proficient readers are also more likely to vote. Perhaps readers venture so readily outside because what they experience in solitude gives them confidence. Perhaps reading is a prototype of independence. No matter how much one worships an author, Proust wrote, “all he can do is give us desires.” Reading somehow gives us the boldness to act on them. Such a habit might be quite dangerous for a democracy to lose.
This concerns the National Endowment for the Arts’ recent “To Read or Not to Read,” covered here by the New York Times, with more background material in a July by me. This can’t be good for the clerisy.