In this modern era wherein every medium of entertainment can be quickly spread and celebrated it has always struck me as peculiar how very few people read. It is not as if literature has been completely abandoned, but amongst the youth it is rare to observe an individual who reads as much as they watch movies or play video games. After some research, I discovered three main characteristics contributing to a common held disinterest in books.
Involvement is the first characteristic. I came to understand it after an interview with resident Leonian: Kenneth Borrero; gamer extraordinaire. “Games are just more entertaining to me than books,” he told me. “It might come down to visuals.” From Kenneth’s perspective, books and even shows are lacking in how they involve the audience. Every medium offers a back and forth but in games it’s more prominent and immediate. Books on the contrary are slow and monotonous; requiring imagination that is subject to drift off with other thoughts.
The second characteristic is inaccessibility. In an interview with Henrietta Marsh (a pseudonym she prefers to her real name) I got a sense of people who’d like to read but struggle in approaching the act. “The idea of reading is very appealing to me and I know I could enjoy a book but I often feel like I’m not going to be able to complete it.” To Marsh and many others, a work of literature is a commitment that garners a long stretch of time. That kind of dedication is arduous to newcomers and so it serves to scare people away from completing a story.
The third characteristic is that of simple ignorance. Not to say people are dense, but simply unaware of what’s good to read. A great deal of exposure to books is limited to academic settings which insist on very rigid and boring texts from a bygone age. In trying to display the importance of literature, education inadvertently makes us shun it for we aren’t offered something that we may find interesting. “Certain styles of writing intimidate me,” said Marsh. “I don’t know what’s worth the effort.”
Entertainment in this era is hallmarked by speed and excess. Since we are never left wanting for something to enjoy we often neglect certain mediums that take longer to make us emotionally invested. The detachment of the youth from reading is reflective of this growing consumer culture whereby we don’t take a second to enjoy slowburn artforms. Why would we when we have access to so much? No individual potato chip in the void of media can stay special to us. We gorge on the endless bag because it’s simply there and egging us on. How are we to start reading again in a world like this?
The responsibility of literature’s longevity lies solely with the writers. They have a duty to not just appeal to the uninterested audiences, but to inspire them and stoke new flames of passion for the written word. To do this is simple. They must write in a manner that appeals to how people think. We are fast and so the writing should be to the point. Slow build ups have no place anymore. Books must be short, with action, simplicity and above all else impossibility. Movies and games are capable of showing us dreamlike universes and so books must reach that level of diversity. A return of surrealism and the absurd. Of the avant-garde and the ludicrous. Only then can the eyes of the masses be drawn back to one of expression’s oldest forms. Only then will the young read again.