* “The Problem of Entitlement: A Question of Respect,” especially worth reading for teachers and students, though it is excellent throughout. This especially resonates:
The world of grad students two decades later is a lot different. Nearly all the students have smartphones, which they bring to class. Nearly all of them spend more time staring at screens than at books.
And the students I encounter seem to value reading less and less. I remember one especially galling workshop that I taught a few years ago, in which I asked the participants to read a single story, “Guests of the Nation” by Frank O’Connor. Hardly any of them bothered. They didn’t seem to understand—they were too entitled to understand—that the production of great literature requires a deep engagement with great literature. In fact, they were more likely to talk about a movie or TV show, or what they just posted on Facebook, than the last great book they read.
When I go into coffeeshops computers and phones outnumber books at least 10:1. That is worth contemplating for anyone who writes or aspires to write books. In many ways writing is more important than ever—in an email yesterday I said that books may be the (financial) wagging the cultural dog—but people are arguably getting paid either less or differently for it.
* “The Great Unread: Why do some classics continue to fascinate while others gather dust?” What is the role of the reader, and how will a given society evolve? To most 19th C writers, coming secularization probably wasn’t totally obvious. What are 21st Century writers underestimating?
The other reality of reading is that an infinite number of books can be read at a given moment. Even dedicated readers rarely read more than 100 books a year.