Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Monday, January 12, 2009

reading redux

In relation to an earlier post of mine on David Frum’s belief that literary culture is in decline, some news:

After years of bemoaning the decline of a literary culture in the United States, the National Endowment for the Arts says in a report that it now believes a quarter-century of precipitous decline in fiction reading has reversed.

The report, “Reading on the Rise: A New Chapter in American Literacy,” being released Monday, is based on data from “The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts” conducted by the United States Census Bureau in 2008. Among its chief findings is that for the first time since 1982, when the bureau began collecting such data, the proportion of adults 18 and older who said they had read at least one novel, short story, poem or play in the previous 12 months has risen.

Here’s a PDF of the full report. Some earlier NEA reports have had more troubling stories to tell, at least in the view of many: I’ve commented on some of the issues here.

And one more thing: We’re not ever going to get another director of the NEA with the energy and intelligence of Dana Gioia. Do yourself a favor and read the commencement address he gave at Stanford in 2007.