The Future of Reading, and Farewell to Garcia Marquez

ONE of the reasons we’re all here — as lovers of Beethoven quartets, long Kurosawa films, serious novels, challenging visual art — is that we experienced the joys of immersive, uninterrupted reading at an early age. There’s a lot of talk — rightly so — about how poor kids get less of this than wealthier ones. But are the children of the educated middle-classes losing that connection? And will kids who disappear into a bound, paper book without hyperlinks and video find themselves growing up into a world that moves to a different rhythm?

That’s a question I set out to explore in a story today on Al Jazeera America. I speak to educational and psychological researchers, a digital enthusiast200px-Cien_años_de_soledad_(book_cover,_1967), the author of a book about kids’ reading, one of my favorite essayists, and Gutenberg Elegies author Sven Birkerts, who engaged with some of these questions 20 years ago.

Anyone interested in my story, by the way, should read Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Also, new Wendy Lesser’s new Why I Read gets at the value of literature, and Jason Boog’s forthcoming Born Reading will interest parents especially.

I’ll fill in some further thoughts a little later, but for now, please check out my story. I start out by talking about my son, who’s the most passionate reader I know.

ALSO: Speaking of deep reading, it’s hard for me to forget the almost physical feeling of sinking into One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I read as a college freshman, visiting my then girlfriend in LA’s verdant Laurel Canyon neighborhood after a few cold, dark months at our New England college. I entirely understand John Leonard’s review of the book, that he emerged as if his mind was on fire. It remains, perhaps, my favorite novel, and I can’t imagine reading it any other way than lost, alone in the author’s imaginative world.

Here is the New York Times obituary of the late great Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The Los Angeles writer Steve Erickson, whose early surreal and labyrinthine novels were inspired by the author and other Latin American writers, has an appreciation here in the American Prospect.

Rest in peace.

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