There are all kinds of arguments for reading the canon (Italo Calvino‘s come to mind) but why should we spend time reading untested contemporary authors? Tim Parks tackles this question, with a little help from Virginia Woolf, for The New York Review of Book‘s blog, and his argument pairs well with Guy Patrick Cunningham‘s Millions essay on reading the classics.
“Rather than presenting a single, definitive story—an ostensibly objective chronicle of events—these books offer a past of competing perspectives, of multiple voices. They are not so much historical as archival: instead of giving us the imagined experience of an event, they offer the ambiguous traces that such events leave behind.” On the role of realist historical fictions.
“It’s possible that when it comes to books, we have overestimated the means of delivery and have underestimated the importance of the content conveyed in the media.” A recent study demonstrated that preschoolers demonstrated the same level of reading comprehension regardless of whether the story they were, ahem, consuming came in digital or analog form, reports MOBY Lives. For more on the print vs. screen debate, see Alix Christie on the persistence of physical books; and of course it would be criminal not to mention our own founder C. Max Magee‘s killer compilation The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books.
Recommended reading (and doodling): an excerpt from an upcoming translation of Martin Solares‘s How to Draw a Novel, complete with diagrams and squiggling lines. Pair with our own Hannah Gersen‘s look at authors’s methods for drawing and mapping their own novels-in-progress.
Fun Fact: “Literature” was an Olympic event until 1948. In fact, several other events were also listed under the umbrella of “Sporting Art,” as Olympic historian John MacAloon points out to NPR. For example, W. B. Yeats’ brother, Jack Butler Yeats, won the “Mixed Painting” silver in 1924; some people even won “Medals for Making Medals!”