Commentary

Just An Online Minute... Campaigning Under The "Reading Rainbow"

Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, Little Women, the Ramona series, Five Children and It, Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridget to Terabithia, This Place Has No Atmosphere, The Girl With the Silver Eyes, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret... these are just a few of the books that so thoroughly engrossed this Minute when she was growing up that her father used to tell her (jokingly, she thinks), to "stop reading and go watch TV!"

Now when I crack the spine of a new book, it pains me so much to put it down to eat, sleep, or work, that I have started using this agony as an excuse to read fewer books and veg out in front of the TV. But maybe it's not just a need to be unengaged at the end of a long day that's preventing me from starting that borrowed copy of the novel Middlesex that's been on my bedside table for two years and counting.

As reported recently in The New York Times, a survey by JupiterResearch found that 31 percent of adult Internet users read books less frequently. Is it because we're exhausted from online overload, or because in this age of multitasking we can't as easily read a book while also talking on the phone and Citysearching for the perfect Valentine's Day date spot?

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As soon as this Minute's written, I'll press "play" on the episode of "Grey's Anatomy" that's recording on my DVR, wash the dishes, feed the cat, brush my teeth, and then settle onto the couch to seamlessly continue watching. I guess the beauty of a novel's distinctly non-digital, linear prowess is at times also its downfall.

There are enough ads about cars, insurance, diets, beer, prescription drugs, and TV shows these days to service and also overwhelm even the most modest consumer. And while I think I've seen a PSA or two telling me to read to children, what about servicing my literary needs? Where are the ads encouraging me to read? Good books, not the latest thriller that I see subway cars full of ads for all the time.

In the wake of James Frey, I think it's time for someone other than Oprah, like a large company or foundation or Bill Gates (who is actually a big company and foundation all rolled into one) to make reading books hot again. It's time for books to be touted by the media in the same way that TV is, for watercooler chats to be about the latest Joan Didion work (The Year of Magical Thinking, which I actually read), instead of ABC's cancellation of "Emily's Reasons Why Not" after a single episode.

To begin garnering support for my novel cause, I'm going to start reading Middlesex tonight, just as soon as I finish watching "Grey's."

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