The Big Read Blog (Archive)


Washington, DC

"A library user in its natural habitat" by Molly Ali from Flickr ( / CC BY-NC 2.0)

On the one hand, there's ample evidence that literary reading is not as popular a pasttime as it used to be. On the other hand, when you hear all of the enthusiastic testimonials from folks who are participating in The Big Read and other reading programs and projects, it's clear that there are entire towns, cities, and, even, states full of people that still have books at the top of their to-do lists. In this excerpt from a conversation with the NEA, Marilynne Robinson chimes in on the persistent nature of literary culture.

I do think that how people spend their time, and people often have limited time, is responsive to what they feel about the world. I think that a lot of people are reading what they find on the Internet,and a lot of this is information of a valuable or interesting kind, you know. I think that there?s a lot of interest in nonfiction because there are lots of problems that are cultural and social problems that are addressed by nonfiction.  I think that, in my own experience going around doing readings and so on and talking to other people who do them, there is a very passionate reading audience. I don?t know how large it is, but there are some very intense readers out there. 

I think that the literary culture of a civilization is sort of, it?s like the musical culture, you know.  It?s profoundly expressive and reflective in a way that is, perhaps, not easily articulated. But I think that you can see in this culture, odd as its forms are, sometimes, that there?s a kind of coherence that is established in cultural life by music. I think that this is true also when a culture is producing strong literature, that it becomes a way in which a culture can converse with itself and can form its idea of value in life, the esthetic, the beautiful. I mean the oldest art we have is narrative literature, which has been very meticulously maintained, by who knows who, over eons. I think that there?s a very strong impulse in human cultures to produce this kind of culture; it?s hard to imagine it being lost.  It?s sort of like imagining that people will stop dreaming, you know.

To find a Big Read even near you, visit The Big Read calendar. Don't forget the last day to apply for a Big Read grant for 2010-2011 is Monday, February 2.




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