thoughts on reading

Why, look what I found in my e-mail inbox this morning ~ a notice that Mars Hill Audio, volume 90 was ready to download (I subscribe via mp3)! The interviewees and subject matter make me very happy:

"This is a special extended issue of the Journal, with over 75 minutes of material on Part 2, dedicated to a recent National Endowment for the Arts report on the decline of reading among Americans.

Guests on this issue include:
-J. Mark Bertrand, on how the language of 'worldviews' can mean something richer than it often does.

-Michael P. Schutt, on how the day-to-day practice of Christian lawyers can reflect a Christian view of the nature of law.

-Michael Ward, on how C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia were shaped by medieval cosmological beliefs about the seven planets.

-Dana Gioia, on the disturbing trends in the reading (non)habits of Americans.

-Makoto Fujimura, on reading, painting, and attending to the world.

-Gregory Edward Reynolds, on lessons about reading from the study of media ecology.

-Catherine Prescott, on why portrait painters often depict their subjects with books in their hands.

-Eugene Peterson, on the place of reading in the spiritual lives of Christians

As always, Mars Hill Audio discusses the most interesting, vital topics relevant to our society. I think volume 90 - largely regarding the importance of reading - is necessary for many ears, but not just because I love to read (and think you should, too). I happen to believe that if reading continues to decline among Americans, our country is in big trouble. I'm not kidding. You don't have to be a book-addict to my extreme, but I do believe everyone should pick up a good book much more often.

Volume 90 is also timely since my soporific reading for last night was a nice letter from Poetry magazine - an essay entitled "Poetry Magazine's Rebirth", originally printed in The New York Sun. Yes, the letter is an attempt to entice me to subscribe, but the essay does a good job of convincing me, one paragraph in particular:

"The intellectual origins of today's Poetry seem to lie in Dana Gioia's 1991 essay 'Can Poetry Matter?' which set out what has become an influential critique of the American poetry world. The art of poetry, Mr. Gioia argued, had become a profession - cloistered in university writing departments, indifferent to the general reading public, and incapable of honest self-criticism. Until it began to address and care about the common reader, poetry would never reclaim its place as the highest branch of literature; instead, it would dwindle into a mere craft, a hobby for the MFA set."

Dana Gioia sure has good things to say. I feel the same way about poetry as I do books in general - it would be tragic if people one day no longer cared for literature. The editor of Poetry, Christian Wiman, says it better than I do:

"Let us remember .... that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both."

Plus, Poetry is offering me 12 issues for $20; normally 11 issues are $35. And, I love the design of this small journal, alright? Remember this photo? - there is Poetry:

How could I not support a journal like that?

....Perhaps you should purchase volume 90 of Mars Hill Audio and listen along with me. It's available through the M.H.A. site for only $6.00 on mp3, or $9.00 on CD.

Two more thoughts. One: if you're not reading The New York Times' Reading Room blog, you should be. The current book up for discussion is one of my favorites (both book and author): Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. AND, one of the current panelists on Reading Room is another of my favorite authors - Kathleen Norris. I'm just sayin'.

Two: I'm curious - do any of you get nervous about statistics that reveal less and less people take the time to read actual books?


kate ortiz said...

i just got the same email today. omar and i were very excited to hear about the topics. i've appreciated dana gioia's words in the past and am intrigued as to what he will say. indeed i do get nervous when i hear the crazy statistics about how little people read. we should get a discussion going once we listen to the interview, yes?

jenni said...

Yes! Count me in.

alissa wilkinson said...

Man, Dana Gioia is something else. I met him at the IAM conference a couple years ago and he has an amazing amount of insight (and he's a great model of the businessman-scholar-artist)!

It's always weird to see people I know listed around the internet. I hear Mako speak all the time, but I may have to just get this one so I can pass it around . . . By the way, there's a couple of his sermons on our church website buried in the sermon archives, for free download.

jenni said...

Thanks for the sermons link, Alissa!

Lindsay said...

I get nervous about the statistics, especially when I think about my future children, in whom I hope to instill a lifelong love of reading. I don't want them to be like all the other video game and TV obsessed kids I see. I was shocked to find out that most children--young children--actually have TV sets in their bedrooms. (I still don't have one in my bedroom!)

Honestly, I often feel like a weird-o because I read a lot and talk about books and most other people I run into don't. They wonder how I have time to read. I wonder how they have so much time to watch TV.

(Thanks for including these topics in your blog. It helps to know I'm not the only one who thinks about these things. :)

jenni said...

Oh, no - our kids will not have a TV in their bedrooms! No way. And you're no weirdo. I'm just as bookish, though I do love certain TV shows - but not as much as good books.