26 Jun 2011

The Death of Reading

From Jeffrey Deaver's website.

Grab a cuppa and enjoy when you have a couple of minutes spare. It is very clever.

The Death of Reading

By Jeffery Deaver

I've got what I think is the very best job.
I have no commute; I can dress like a slob.
I get paid to make up things — isn't that neat?
Just like at the White House and 10 Downing Street.

Only in my case there's no dereliction.
In fact, lying's expected when you're writing fiction.
So imagine my horror, imagine my fear
When I read in the press that the end was near.

But not Armageddon or crazed terrorists.
No, the death of reading was the article's gist.
Teachers and parents and critics all share it:
That like Monty Python's proverbial parrot

Reading is dead, deceased, pushing up daisies.
People are growing increasingly lazy,
lured by the siren of electronic toys
That fill up their lives with meaningless noise.

Play Stations, Facebook, big-screen TVs
And mobile phones smarter than I'll ever be.
We pray at the altar of our brand-new God,
Who's powerful and wise and whose name is iPod.

Now, if people are no longer going to read,
Then writers are something that nobody needs.
This made my heart tremble and made my hands shake
And I considered what other jobs I might take.

But looking for work to find something new,
I decided that I all I could possibly do
Involved making lattes and learning to say,
"Let me tell you about our specials today."

So before heading off to my overpriced shrink,
I decided it might be best to rethink
these terrible rumors that we've all heard
About the demise of the written word.

Now, if truly readers are dying off fast,
That suggests there were masses of them in the past,
But I can hardly imagine when that might have been.
Who had, after all, any time to read when

You were fighting off lions with your bare hands
And wandering nomadic across desert sands.
True, reading wasn't past everyone's reach,
But stone tablets weren't popular reads at the beach.

In ancient Rome, yes, people read more,
But not mass-market scrolls from their local drug store.
And Latin, oh, please . . . once your lessons were done
Your life span was over, and your neighbors were Huns.

In medieval times, there was always the hope
That you might learn to read — if you worked for the Pope,
Or you were a royal or other elite,
Which left most of Europe up illiterate creek

Then Gutenberg invented movable letters,
Making access to books a little bit better.
Though another small problem existed, of course,
That the smallest of books cost more than your horse.

Victoria's queen; tuppence novels arrive.
And everywhere interest in reading thrives.
But despite what the doom sayers might be wishing,
The data show Dickens sold far less than Grisham.

Well, if the past hardly proves what the critics say,
Then how 'bout the state of reading today?
To find out if no one reads anymore
I went to — where else? — my local book store,

Which I couldn't help notice was jammed to the gills,
And virtually every shelf was filled
With books on more subjects than I knew existed
And dozens of posters on which were listed

Upcoming visits by writers galore,
Who'd read to their fans right there in the store:
Lit'rature, poems, true crimes about killers
And self-help and travel, and — oh, yeah — thrillers.

And if crowded stores turn you into a grouch,
You don't even need to get off your couch.
Click on Amazon's site and browse online
For ten million titles, all day long, any time.

A few years ago when I was downtown,
Doing some shopping, just strolling around
I nearly died in a massive stampede
Of children, no less, in desperate need

To purchase their latest heart's desire,
No batteries required, no software, no wires,
A book's what they sought and they'd waiting all day.
Who's this Harry Potter guy, anyway?

We love reading so much that the books we now see
Are changing from what they used to be.
Paper and ink have just been transformed,
Into shiny new books in digital form.

Why, I got on an airplane the other day
And I heard this announcement on the PA:
"Welcome aboard, we'll soon be underway.
Please put telephones, eBooks and Kindles away."

Instead of meeting some horrible fate,
Last year book sales rose a respectable rate,
while most trades were in complete disarray
Which I know for a fact from my 401(K).

So forgive me, the ghosts of Lake Windermere,
And all other poets that we hold so dear,
Not to mention the late and the great Dr. Seuss,
For my rhyming transgressions and rhythmic abuse,

But I simply couldn't sit back and ignore
This lie that nobody reads anymore.
And I'll share some more proof that there's nothing to fear:
Why, just look around at our gathering here.

We could be golfing or napping or hanging in bars,
Or watching reruns of Dancing with Stars.
But we've managed to get here, whatever it took,
For something immortal . . . the passion for books.

© 2006 Jeffery W. Deaver


  1. That was so good! I boiled the jug in anticipation, but forgot to finish making my cuppa. Very uplifting for readers and writers alike, and a nice change from the doom-sayers predicting the decline of books.

  2. Love it! Reading is not dead here that's for sure - and it definitely beats watching reruns of Dancing With Stars! :)

  3. Excellent!

    Just curious--what IS the Australian version of The White House or 10 Downing?? I'm THAT ignorant..... How about in New Zealand??

  4. What a great read...I actually read this a couple of days ago and have been chewing it over alot. Now I have a good article by Susan Bauer to read when i get a chance! Reading is INcreasing in our home, not DEcreasing! :D

  5. The Lodge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lodge_(Australia)is the official residence of the PM. Parliament House is where everything happens. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliament_House,_Canberra).

    No idea about NZ. Anybody else know?


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