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Why books are overrated
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MrsFairfax



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 1069

PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 3:45 pm    Post subject: Why books are overrated Reply with quote

Why books are overrated
From the book The Solitary Vice: Against Reading by Mikita Brottman.

Believe it or not, people once considered reading to be a dangerous vice. Now it’s “what makes America great,” according to one slogan. Other book-promoting campaigns also try to persuade us that reading is sexy (“Get Caught Reading”), hip (“Get Real @ Your Library”), virile and productive (“Read and Grow”), and, of course, “fun-damental.”

So in-your-face, so taken for granted is this faith in the healing power of literature, it’s hard to believe such assumptions have emerged only in the last 50 years, postdating the development of all the other kinds of entertainment—cable TV, the Internet, hand-held videogames­—that now compete for our time and make reading look old-fashioned in comparison. And yet, as historians of mass literacy have shown, our indiscriminate faith in the act of reading would, not so long ago, have seemed gloriously insane.

For much of our history, in fact, reading was considered bad for you. Books, it was long believed, had hidden powers; they could cast a spell on you. And it’s not hard to see why. The earliest secular manuscripts, produced long before the advent of general literacy (and often the work of alchemists and magicians), must have seemed suspiciously cryptic to ordinary law-abiding nonreaders.

Have you ever seen that poster in the children’s section of bookstores showing a couple of bears flying through the air, clutching the strings of a colorful balloon, beneath the words “Books Take You to Wonderful Places”? That one always makes me wonder how long those unfortunate bears have got left before they come crashing back down to earth. It’s true, stories can take you to wonderful places. What the posters don’t tell you is that you can’t stay there, and for those children who spend their early years in the otherworld of literature, real life can come as a rotten letdown.

<snip>

There’s no question that, in terms of emotional development, books didn’t help me at all. For one thing, they gave me ridiculous ideas about romance.

The Victorians had worried about such things. In the 19th century, novel reading was considered an especially inappropriate pastime for well-bred young girls. Romantic novels, it was believed, gave young women the impression that love was a wonderfully passionate affair, and that marriage would be full of excitement and emotion, not practical things like finances, housekeeping, and child-rearing. In other words, it was feared that young ladies who read romantic novels would be deeply disillusioned by the bitter realities of marriage.

<big snip>

The old superstitions about books aren’t groundless, in other words. They can cast a spell on you. They can change your life completely, and, once you’ve changed, you can’t go back. I, for one, would have been much better off if I’d listened to my dad and spent more time in the company of other human beings. All those years in the attic would have been far better spent learning vital skills: how to socialize, how to engage with others, how to be physical, how to live in the world.

Yes, books can take you to wonderful places, but they can also leave you stranded there, isolated from other human beings, even from your own experience of yourself.

+++++

You can read the entire excerpt at The Week Magazine, or buy the book. Personally, I'd give her story more credit if the enormous impact of Wuthering Heights had included correctly remembering that it was Cathy who was buried on the moors.
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MMcA



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 659

PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Books do you harm - I've got to tell everyone! I know, I'll write a .... no, damn.
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MaryK



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 177
Location: Denham Springs, La

PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Huh. Sounds like her problems stemmed from something worse than reading too much.

Also, I'd give her story more credit if I wasn't expected to read her book about how reading is bad for you.
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
Posts: 1535

PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it's nonsense. People who escape into books generally have damn good reasons for doing so. They are quite aware of reality, thank you very much.
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Elizabeth Rolls



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 1066
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

People in the 19th century also preached against the use of any sort of pain relief in childbirth because it was avoiding the consequences of Eve's sin. Until the 1870s in the UK married women could not own property - on marriage it passed to a woman's husband. A woman could not make a will without her husband's permission and he could reneg on it at any time until it was probated.
And while novel reading might have been frowned on for young ladies, it was all right for all those male publishers to publish them! As for the "bitter realities of marriage" - heaven forbid that young ladies might actually question if the bitterness was really necessary! After all weren't they taught house-keeping, domestic finances etc? Couldn't they see their mothers doing all this and put it all together? As we do? It's called growing up.
I'm not convinced that the attitudes of the 19th century are the definitive word here.

Her attitude towards the "otherworld of literature" reminds me a little of a scene in Dickens's Hard Times where children are being force fed knowledge fact by dreary unconnected fact with no understanding of what it all meant. No thanks. Obviously if reading is bad for me I need to cut down - so I'll give Ms Brottman's book a miss.

Perhaps if her Dad had organised other activities for her and taken her out to them and spent time with her she might have learnt those skills she feels she missed out on. What she missed out on was balance in her life, which parents ought to be able to help create. You'd have to feel sorry for any child she had who loved reading - not to mention the poor class teacher!

Elizabeth - who has just listened to another mum moaning about how stressed out her child is by having to learn her spelling words each week. Get. Over. It.
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mamaofthree1963



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 139

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oy vey—where is it going to end! Every blessed week we're being notified that something we've always enjoyed is bad for us. Now reading? Geesh. It's only "bad" for you if you let it become your whole life—as apparently this writer did/had done to her as a child/teenager.

Well duh. To me that's like saying, "Wine is bad for you! Beware. It plays tricks on the mind and the spirit. You keep at it and at it and before you know it, BOOM---you're drinking all alone in the attic all day long and you have no friends and no social skills."

Substitute "wine" for anything, and the result is the same. I do believe the key, as they say, is MODERATION.

Makes me think I can write a book about the evils of powdered-sugar donuts (to which I'm addicted) and have no trouble a'tall finding an agent/publisher for it.

As someone else said above, please get a life, and let those of us who know how to live in moderation enjoy the few real pleasures we do have!
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4210
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 8:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moderation. All in moderation, to which Elizabeth Rolls and mamaofthree allude. I agree totally. I do feel sorry for any kid (or anyone, really) who has no social life at all and spends most of his (leisure) life reading (or any sole activity). Reading is good, but not to the exclusion of living life too. There has to be balance or else a person's slant on life is way too tilted in only one direction.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tee wrote:
Moderation. All in moderation, to which Elizabeth Rolls and mamaofthree allude. I agree totally. I do feel sorry for any kid (or anyone, really) who has no social life at all and spends most of his (leisure) life reading (or any sole activity). Reading is good, but not to the exclusion of living life too. There has to be balance or else a person's slant on life is way too tilted in only one direction.




Yes, I agree...excess in anything cannont be good for a person, but so often, the love of reading and books stems from childhood. I did a lot of reading as a child, but I had a couple best friends, my piano, dogs (yes, even then) and a very energetic mother. My reading was healthy, but I probably did more of it than my sister and brother. When my kids were in school I would volunteer at the schools and I would see some children buried in a book instead of involving themselves socially. At first, I thought it was a good thing, but day after day did seem like an escape, in a way, and not to mention, a little bit lonely.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2478

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mmm! If someone is going to be immoderate about any activity, I, at least, would prefer it would be reading he's immoderate about. Several of my grand-children, for example, seem to have come from the womb with electronic gadgets consuming all their attention. Nearly all of them are so involved in organized activities, their mothers and fathers spend a great deal of their time driving from one venue to another. They are all well-socialized, almost too much so. And frankly, I've never seen the great value in being "socialized."

Readers, even those who are immoderate about it, are rarely regimented, as so very many children seem to be. From the moment they start school, until the moment they graduate, they MUST play a sport, be in band, scouts, etc., etc., etc. They MUST learn to get along, be a team player, cooperate--i.e. be sociable.

When my son was in kindergarten, I received an urgent call from his teacher. I learned a horrible thing--my son refused to leave his chair and "sit in a circle" on the floor. When I commented that preferring to remain seated in a chair seemed perfectly reasonable to me, the teacher was aghast. She was horrified. He wasn't SOCIALIZING! I said not a word to him about his recalcitrance. He subsequently flunked "sitting in the circle."
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Elizabeth Rolls



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 1066
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I said not a word to him about his recalcitrance. He subsequently flunked "sitting in the circle."


Oops! I got expelled from kindergarten for pushing another child off a tricycle I wanted to use. Damn! I could read by then. Obviously my social skills sucked Shocked. My older brother certainly thought so; the child was his housemaster's son Embarassed . Does posting here count as being sociable?

Elizabeth
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="dick"]Mmm! If someone is going to be immoderate about any activity, I, at least, would prefer it would be reading he's immoderate about. Several of my grand-children, for example, seem to have come from the womb with electronic gadgets consuming all their attention. Nearly all of them are so involved in organized activities, their mothers and fathers spend a great deal of their time driving from one venue to another. They are all well-socialized, almost too much so. And frankly, I've never seen the great value in being "socialized."

Readers, even those who are immoderate about it, are rarely regimented, as so very many children seem to be. From the moment they start school, until the moment they graduate, they MUST play a sport, be in band, scouts, etc., etc., etc. They MUST learn to get along, be a team player, cooperate--i.e. be sociable.




It's true, kids are way overscheduled these days. I think parents are in a hurry and are often overscheduled themselves, so they think their children should be as busy. I was lucky to stay home with mine when they were small and we had all the time in the world to get from point A to point B. It was fun. However, in my post, I was talking about the children than never played with others and used their book as a shield. It was pretty apparent after some time that they were doing that. I have to give the teachers credit though, they let those children alone with their books after trying to bring them out a few times. As for my children, when my son was in kindergarten, he spent the whole first month holding the teacher's hand on the playground. I oculdn't blame him. The kids were really wild and noisy, and he was more quiet that the other children. I think he was taking it all in trying to decide where he'd fit in. As for my daughter, she jumped in from the first day, got knocked around a bit, but stood back up to do the same the next day.
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LizA



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 140
Location: Austria, Europe

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I totally hid behind books as a teenager. I had some bad experiences (being bullied among others) and books were a safe and satisfying way to get away from the bitchiness of my class mates who constantly picked on me. At some point, i realized there was more to life than reading and started to make an effort to get involved in other things again. However, I did not withdraw from the world because I was reading. I was reading because I was withdrawing from the world. I still think that it is a saner way to deal with bad things than many others - better than becomming a teenaged mother like one of my friends, or abusing alcohol at least.
I do not feel like the reading damaged me - quite contrary, it was my salvation. It showed me that things did not have to be the way they were, that there were other things out there than the narrow mindedness surrounding me, and that I could get out of this.... seems sad that the author of that book has to "blame" her lack of poplarity on books. No it's not my fault! It was the books I read as a teenager!

just my 2cs of course!
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Elizabeth Rolls



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 1066
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Readers, even those who are immoderate about it, are rarely regimented, as so very many children seem to be. From the moment they start school, until the moment they graduate, they MUST play a sport, be in band, scouts, etc., etc., etc. They MUST learn to get along, be a team player, cooperate--i.e. be sociable.


In my own self defence I will admit that my sons do these things but the requests and desire to do so have actually come from them. They asked to play soccer, and cricket or tennis. They asked to join the scouts because their friends were doing it. And they were the ones who asked for music lessons. We just whimper quietly and shell out the shekels and driving time. They do enjoy all this stuff, but the oldest one realised earlier this year that he was doing a bit too much and asked to stop drawing lessons. Another thing he had initiated. I think it's good for them to try different things and be active. I see so many kids who spend apalling amounts of time either with computer games or watching TV. Their parents seem to put no limits on either activity, nor provide other activities to stimulate them and give them something else to do. Kids are naturally curious and want to try things given half a chance and a bit of encouragement. My two just seem to want to do it all. The most I do is insist that if they want me to pay for music lessons then they have to do the practice Rolling Eyes . And if they commit to play for a team then they have to see out the season. No quitting in the middle and letting people down.
And yes, they both read Cool .
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2478

PostPosted: Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As long as a child or young person "chooses" to socialize, I have no problem with it. But I think, in the U.S. at least, schools and parents alike regiment children until individuality is almost an impossibility. We often hear how much peer pressure controls young people's actions, but the pressure from schools and parents is equally suspect, in my view. When I was in school--when dirt was young--I went to school at 9, went home for lunch at 12, returned at 1 and was released at 3, and had two recesses of unsupervised play. It was my or my parents responsibility to get me there. If I wanted to play sports, I found a group to play with. Nobody organized a league. Parents were not involved unless there was a free-for-all, and even then, they intervened only when blood flowed. Now everything's organized--T-ball, soccer for 3d graders, coach-pitch ball, soccer for 12 years and below, basketball teams for 7 year olds. Immoderate readers, at least, are doing something the individual does on his own.

Just an aside, but do kids play kick the can anymore?
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JeweledSunshine



Joined: 04 May 2008
Posts: 13
Location: Oklahoma

PostPosted: Wed Jun 18, 2008 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My boss laughs at me because I regularly have 5 or 6 books in the bag I bring to work. He asked me why I had so many and I told him because I read fast and one or more of the books might be a dud.

When I was a kid (the only girl grandchild among 5 boys) I would go out to play and my family (generally grandmother and aunt) would tell me it's not ladylike to play cowboys and indians, or cops and robbers or whatever game the boys were playing. So, I would go in the house and read. Then my grandmother and aunt would harass me to go outside, get some sunshine, play, get some exercise. So, I would go BACK outside and play with the boys and then they would tell me I wasn't being ladylike . . . :::sigh::: I pretty much quit listening to them and just started reading all the time.
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