Moretti Event/A Misunderstanding

Tue Jan 3, 2006

I’ve announced the upcoming Valve book event on Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees, about which I’m excited.

Also, Mark Bauerlein has an article (currently subscription) in the Chronicle about adolescent culture and the decline of literacy. In many ways, I think Bauerlein misses the mark here; but for now I just want to note that this:

The fact that involvement fell while access rose signals a new stance toward literature and the arts among the young. I don’t know of any research that formally examines the trend, but a snippet of conversation that occurred during a National Public Radio interview with me last year illustrates the attitude that I’m describing:Caller: “I’m a high-school student, and I don’t read and my friends don’t read because of all the boring stuff the teachers assign.”

Host: “Such as?”

Caller: “Uh … that book about the guy. You know, that guy who was great.”

Host: “Huh?”

Caller: “The great guy.”

Host: “The Great Gatsby?”

Caller: “Yeah. Who wants to read about him?”

Has another interpretation. What kind of high schooler listens to NPR? That’s right, the prankster. The caller was so funny, in fact, that I suspect that he or she skipped college and now writes for Joey. (Does Bauerlein really believe that anyone watches this? Where did that come from?)