A Rant About Reading

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So, Victoria Beckham has never read a book, and 1 in 4 adults agree. This came as something as a surprise, not because the lyrics to Wannabee were compact nuggets of Dostoyevskian wisdom, but because Victoria has written a book. How you write a book without reading it is beyond me. Anyone would think there was a ghostwriter involved.

Sure, its easy to laugh, but this sort of thing bothers me, mainly because one of the Big Brother contestants also made the same boast. Okay, this isn’t exactly a shock, but why feel the need to announce to the world that you’ve never read a book? Am I missing something? Its like the people you hear about who’ve never heard of Tony Blair, or who don’t know who the first man on the moon was. I mean, you’d have to be actively trying to avoid any mention of the Prime Minister, politics, or newspapers in general to not know who Tony Blair is.

And don’t get me started on that kid in Supersize Me who thought a picture of Jesus was George W. Bush. That’s just wrong.

So forget the Digital Divide, or the Information Divide, are we looking at an Access Divide? All the information is there, in books, in libraries, on the Internet, but what if some people just refuse to access it? No reading material but Heat magazine, no Discovery Channel but wall-to-wall Celebrity Mud Wrestling. All the great religious, philosophical and artistic works, the glories and atrocities of history, even the name of the first man to step foot on the moon, all these left gathering dust on shelves, or achieving significantly fewer hits than porn sites. There’s something frightening about that, and while I’m being paranoid and exaggerating, I still think it’s a brewing problem.

And the Royal Society have just announced that the country needs more teenagers to take up A-Levels in the sciences and maths, which may or may not prove something.

But then again, it’s too easy to sound snobbish. The suspects in the London bombings were described as educated young men. What’s better, a nice person who doesn’t go near books or a well-read suicide bomber? And what about people who spend an awful lot of time studying the Bible or the Koran just to give them a justification for shooting doctors at an abortion clinic, or blowing up themselves and their neighbours?

So yeah, I’m a bookworm snob. Maybe I’m right to be annoyed. Or maybe I need to get over myself. There are way worse sins that not picking up a book. Or maybe those sins are exacerbated by a refusal to engage with ideas, with history, with knowledge. And maybe I don’t engage with those nearly as much as I should…

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