Damon Young On The Mad Modern Quest For Authorship
Writing a book has many gains. You have the title of an "author", people respect you somewhat and that opens doors of opportunity.
Aside from personal benefits, there is no celebrity status attached to reading. It does not matter how voracious or well-read you are. No one cares. According to Damon Young, author of The Art of Reading:
"Despite civilisation’s glut of signs, the virtues of reading are rarely celebrated. Reading well is treated as a rudimentary skill, not a lifelong ambition; not a creative talent to tenaciously enrich and enhance. This contrasts with the popular writing industry: degrees, short courses, workshops, masterclasses, centres, festival panels... Many promise not only technical know-how, but also tricks for convincing editors to publish and audiences to buy."
The information age has made everyone writers of some sort. Most of us want to get our ideas out there and be published by any means. Through the use of blogs and social media, we shout and scream at one another in other to get heard. However, a lot of people wanting to write books hardly have time to read them. Damon Young writes:
"One survey reported that, in the United States, eight out of ten people wanted to write a book—a startling figure, even if only half right. Yet for all their hankering after authorial identity, many are not bibliophiles. The Pew Research Center found that a quarter of Americans had not read a book in the previous year. As writer and translator Tim Parks noted, authorship has become a glamorous professional persona, rather than a craft."
This mad quest for authorship is evident for those who love to read. Many 200-page-book contains only 20 worth reading, the rest are rambles and fluff-talk. Sometimes it is plain to see that no love or joy is poured out on the pages, but ambition, haste, and cynicism. This does not bode well for the world of literature as a whole. It is essential that we respect the craft of writing for what it can do for us and others. But we must never forget that reading as a skill has the ability to elevate writing as well as enrich and enhance our lives.
To read more about the benefits of reading and how to get better at it, check out the Art of Reading by Damon Young. Many thanks to Scribe US for review copy.