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Dirda on the Diminishing of Literary Tastes

Michael Dirda on the state of reading today:

But to my mind, the real literacy crisis has less to do with the number of people reading than with the narrowing range of books that Americans actually read.
According to the report, all of “one in six people reads 12 or more books in a year.” Half the population never looks at any fiction, poetry or plays. This is, obviously, just pathetic. And what the NEA report fails to say is that most of those people have chosen the very same 12 books, starting with The Da Vinci Code, followed by a) the latest movie tie-in, and b) whatever Oprah Winfrey has recommended lately. We’ve been straitjacketed and brainwashed by the books of the passing moment. Publishers know they can promote almost any title to bestsellerdom. Glittery names and hot-button topics guarantee big sales, so former presidents turn out their brick-like apologiae, even as aging Hollywood celebrities and rock divas produce glitzy children’s picture books (no writing is harder to do well). And most of the nonfiction titles — and half the fiction titles, too — now seem to be about terrorism, homeland security or the ongoing Middle East crisis.

I will be posting a response to this article on blogcritics fairly soon so I will not comment here.

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