Jul 7 2010

Reading at the Speed of Print (Three Percent)

People can read traditional printed books a good bit faster than eBooks on tablet computers, a new study has found.

The study tested peoples’ pace of reading on two popular e-reader tablets – Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle 2 – as well as a standard PC monitor and a plain ol’ regular book.

Three Percent: Reading at the Speed of Print.


Jun 8 2010

One Possible Cause of Readicide…. (The Nation)

John Palattella of The Nation writes:

The book beat has been gutted primarily by cultural forces, not economic ones, and the most implacable of those forces lies within rather than outside the newsroom. It is not iPads or the Internet but the anti-intellectual ethos of newspapers themselves….

Carlin Romano, then the books critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer, who was scolded by an editor for running as the cover story of his section a review of a new translation of Tirant Lo Blanc, a Catalan epic beloved by Cervantes. “Have you gone crazy?” the editor asked. “Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Americas newspapers in the 1990s,” Romano reflected, “is their hostility to reading in all forms.”

via The Death and Life of the Book Review | The Nation.


Mar 8 2010

American Fiction’s Calling: Semper Fi to Simplify

Anthony S. Maulucci of Red Room writes in “What’s Missing from Modern American Fiction?“:

What is missing from today’s fiction I asked myself once again, and the answer I came up with is the power of simplicity and passion.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with Maulucci’s judgment; still, it would have been nice if he provided specific examples and name some currently read authors who are neither practicing simplicity or exhibiting passion in their writings. These qualifications, according to Maulucci, are absent in most modern American fiction, and if taken as truth, an the underlying question now emerges: What is wrong with or “missing from” modern American fiction? Maulucci doesn’t list any specific examples, but perhaps Bookbread can assume he is referring to the David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon side of the shelf.

Along these lines comes a post entitled “Of Course Everyone Knows That There’s No Experimental Writing in America“, at Conversational Reading, which makes the claim:

True, as Hemon [editor of the Best in European Fiction] says there’s a lot of adventurous fiction languishing on the fringes, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s also a lot of it getting published by the mainest of the mainstream. There’s a lot of fragmented, meta, crazy-type fiction going on out there in the U.S., and it’s getting published because American readers are pretty comfortable with it now, comfortable enough that it’ll sell in large enough volumes to make it profitable.

Really? Is there a metafiction best-seller’s list put out by Amazon? How many movies are being optioned by experimental American novelists? Is there a metafiction convention soon to be held around the corner, because I haven’t heard about it yet. Where is the experimental fiction booth at the National Book Fair? Where’s the SNL skit making fun of metafiction as a result of its apparent mainstreamness? Is Jon Stewart’s staff overly swamped trying to book experimental novelists on the show? Or are they confined to any CSPAN’s BookTV? Admittedly, Bookbread came across some minimal metafiction chatter on Twitter, but these kinds of questions are pretty much meaningless, when, according to the blogger at Conversational Reading:

After all, have you taken a look at life in the U.S. recently? I’d say it’s getting to the point that people I know are more familiar with fragmentation, multiple worlds, meta, etc than the other stuff that’s supposedly our bread and butter.

Yes, a majority of Americans may be quite “familiar with fragmentation,” but that familiarity doesn’t correlate with a claim that the majority of bookish Americans are buying and reading metafiction.

At the blog for the New York Review of Books, a post by Tim Parks headlined “The Dull New Global Novel” reports on the plight of twenty-first century non-American authors who must write in English, or in ways that can be translated into English. But this assumes all modern novelists seek a global audience. Are readers of the Review to accept that there is no such thing as niche marketing? Does no demographic segmentation of readership exist in the twenty-first century? Thankfully, a comment on Parks’ post by Patricia Wilson gets it right when she observes:

Too many think that the small audiences prior to the Victorian Era were [small] only because so few had the literacy and the money to purchase books. To a point it is true but even in the 20th and 21st centuries people having literacy skills and money prefer to read for enjoyment and entertainment, not only educational. It’s not so much that the reader knows it all but after working an 8-hour shift, working with one’s children with or without a spouse’s assistance, making dinner and cleaning the kitchen, there’s not much mental or physical energy left . Many of those that are highly educated have little or no interest in reading anything. But they are busy with their hands or in helping others do what the others can’t do. Be thankful the world is getting more literate. There are more readersthere are 6.3 BILLION people now in contrast to the short 2 billion in 1900. That means 2.1 billion now are reading in contrast to the 900 million in 1900. That keeps some bookstores, publishers and used bookstore still going. I know— I use them.

Many of those that are highly educated have little or no interest in reading anythingthis is readicideand it is not limited to modern children; it can afflict even those who formerly enjoyed reading. And regardless of Wilson’s accuracy, sources, and methods behind the statistics she providesher point that there are exponentially more literate people with access to more printed and electronic reading material than ever before must be remembered amid the doom and gloom that blankets the current economics around publishing. Witness these recent findings in The Guardian about “India’s new middle class for English novels ” :

In the next decade, publishers forecast that India will become the biggest English language book-buying market in the world.

Parks may claim that global English fiction is “dulling down,” but Bookbread must reciprocate from Parks and ask: Is there a case to be made that American Fiction is too simple, that is, too drunk on Hemingway’s style? Perhaps the solution is an American rendering of Finnegans Wake. Are there instances where modern American fiction was too passionate, in Maulucci’s terms, too “involved”? (None according to Genoways, or at least none nowadays).


Feb 12 2010

Reading is Soooo Retro

21st Century Literacy Log has some info from her post “Building Deeper Readers” and provides a few interesting phrases for the current phase of twenty-first century fiction:

….”Endangered species—Perhaps most endangered of all . . . the adolescent reader….

“….readicide”

“….Rather than lift up struggling readers, an emphasis on test prep ensures struggling readers will continue to struggle….”

In plain polemic: Readicide remains rampant across America, but should Texans worry? Can’t the clerics of twenty-first century Texas strive to function as technocratic gatekeepers of internet methods, software grammar, and the laws of search to the illiterate demos? Can’t we all guard each other’s gate as in Kafka’s parable of Before the Law (1925)? What’s wrong with a twenty-first century writer “doing his own thing” if it involves only one of the various types of reading, writing or technology skills? Readicide?—please. Bookbread says, “Bring it on.”

Some of 21st‘s notes on educating aptly apply to current students of Texas public schools, considering their reading habits.

“In short, all this emphasis on test prep plays a large part in maintaining ‘apartheid schools….'”

Bookbread can’t vouch for the accuracy of this assertion—I seem to recall that apartheid schools (ethnically and scholastically) were maintained by the state well before the modern era of public education and its emphasis on test prepping. Who’s to say there won’t be “apartheid schools” once citizens grown bored with spending their time and money on test prepping and standardization? Again, from 21st‘s notes:

“Remember: WYTIWYG (‘witty-wig’)—’What You Test Is What You Get.'”

This assertion appears accurate in so far as it demonstrates the current need for test-teachers, reading teachers, writing teachers, etc.

Texas, moreover, will focus on test-teachers and student testers. Its graduates will know how to take (i.e. read questions and write answers for) a Texas test. Beyond that, who’s to say?