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Tubthumping through the ages

The National Endowment for the Arts’ recent report on the sorry state of American reading habits and the withering of the printed word is still generating debate in the U.S. In an essay for The Village Voice, Paul Collins, an editor at McSweeney’s Books, argues that by defining “literary reading” as the consumption of poetry, poems, and fiction, the association’s methodology was flawed from the start: “It will come as news to historians and memoirists, working in the two most vibrantly evolving genres of the last decade, that what they create does not constitute ‘reading.’ Nor, for that matter, do essays or graphic narratives.” Collins also points out that cultural conservatives such as the NEA’s Dana Gioia have been warning — usually in the same thundering, Old Testament tones — of the imminent demise of the book for at least a century, pinning this impending catastrophe on everything from the electric lamp to the automobile to the television.

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Read Paul Collins’ piece in The Village Voice