Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Happy Birthday, Bev

Newsweek has a nice article this week on Beverly Cleary who will be turning 90 this month. I didn't discover Cleary's work until I was an adult, and I can't say it particularly grabbed me. I do have to hand it to her, though--I had young relatives who loved her Ramona books. And they were young male relatives. Conventional wisdom claims that boys won't read books about girls. Not so when Cleary wrote them.

I also respect that Cleary has no plans to do any more writing. She says it's important to know when to stop. I plan to write so long as I can sit up in front of a word processor. But I worry that she may very well be correct. I'd hate to be writing past the point where I have anything of value to say. Or anything entertaining to say. Or anything coherent to say.

Oh, what am I thinking? With the genes I've inherited, I'll be dead long before that happens.

Thanks to About Children's Books for the link.

This Doesn't Sound All That Bad To Me

I have a family member who reads U.S. News & World Report. He passed on to me the March 13 issue with a cover story called Books Gone Wild!!! Some points I found particularly interesting:

Remember the 2004 NEA report Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America? The report said that fewer than half of American adults read "literature," meaning fiction or poetry? People 18 to 24 are down almost 30 percent in their literary reading over a twenty-year period? Is it coming back to you? Well, in the U.S. News article the president of the Association of American Publishers suggests that some of those readers have just shifted from literature to nonfiction. The NEA report is called "A Survey of Literary Reading in America" remember. Did it do any surveying of nonfiction reading?

And the vice president for new media at Random House says, "People are reading more than ever--screen-based reading, on mobile phone, BlackBerrys, computer screens, reading blogs, and gathering information on the Web. As a publishing industry we need to provide products that meet the needs of this digital, Internet-savvy generation."

Meaning that when it becomes easy read fiction in a screen-based manner, people may start reading it again.

The business about people not reading fiction is certainly bad news for people like myself who write it. But it clearly doesn't mean that people aren't reading at all. We're not talking about the fall of western civ. here.

Another interesting point:

That NEA report came out in 2004. Book sales actually went up in 2005. Okay, the top 200 bestsellers accounted for about ten percent of sales. And many of the other sales may have been due to nonfiction purchases. But even taking all that into consideration, I think it shows we're still a nation of readers.

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