Posts Tagged ‘Newsweek’
With the current exponential proliferation of messages and programming, from tweets to books to music to videos, some things are getting lost.
Losing shared media experience – Sure there is still messaging and programming that is widely shared. I mean, if millions of people watch the same YouTube video, we all have something in common. But overall the odds are simply against it. When there was more limited television, chances were that a lot of people in the office watched the same show the night before, and it would be the talk of the lunch room and the water cooler. When there were fewer books and fewer music options, chances were that a big portion of a campus might be reading the same book or listening to the same music.
Everything works against this happening now, and ever happening again. Media are multiplied and diffracted, so bit by bit people are pulled into one special interest or another. This enables people to find narrower communities where they can pursue those interests more intensively than ever. But there is a quality to broadly shared experience that can’t be replaced.
Losing buried great works – When media messages proliferate, you have an upside down pyramid. What was produced earlier simply gets buried under the what of now: the latest books, the latest music, the latest movies, etc. On top of that, there’s a natural inclination in fast-changing times to treat the “old stuff” as, well, old stuff, and inherently less worthy of your attention. This isn’t right or wrong, just the way things are.
This week’s Newsweek has a cover feature on What to Read Now. I was pleased to see a news magazine devoted to books (though events forced the books to share space with Michael Jackson), and to see that the suggested books covered four centuries. (The No. 1 choice for what to read now, by the way, is Anthony Trollope’s 1875 British satirical novel The Way We Live Now.)
Newsweek explains its criteria:
The fact is, no one needs another best-of list telling you how great The Great Gatsby is. What we do need, in a world with precious little time to read (and think), is to know which books—new or old, fiction or nonfiction—open a window on the times we live in, whether they deal directly with the issues of today or simply help us see ourselves in new and surprising ways. Which is why we’d like you to sit down with Anthony Trollope, and these 49 other remarkably trenchant voices.
Well, I am glad Newsweek is helping to unearth buried treasure. But there’s seems a bit of “it’s good for you” medicine and work in their explanation. (I’ve never read the Trollope book, and as remarkably trenchant as it might be, I’m not sure I’m ready for its 800 19th century pages.) When I show off older books or music or movies that I want to keep current with newer readers/listeners/viewers, it’s love and enjoy I’m trying to get to. When I discovered that there’s now a generations or more who don’t read Kurt Vonnegut, it’s not that I want them to read Slaughterhouse Five just because it is one of the 100 Best English-language Novels Since 1923, according to Time. And it’s not because there was a time that almost everyone I knew read Kurt Vonnegut, giving us a literary lingua franca that we still share today, even if we don’t talk about it. It’s because it’s a strangely funny and enjoyable story of horror, of coming unstuck in time, that isn’t told anywhere else by anyone else in just this way. One of many examples why we can’t let the good stuff get lost at the bottom of the pile.