Marching Backward Into the Future: Reading Beyond the Nation

An Original Essay by Local Author Matt Briggs

Synopsis: Much of the current hysteria elicited by the launch of the Amazon Kindle, a digital book reader, the National Endowment Report Reading At Risk, and declining book sales is approaching reading through the same neo-conservative mindset fostered by cultural critics such as Harold Bloom. The movement to restore the primacy of the printed word is a conservative one with the same degree of sense as might be found among medievalists, adopters of the Paleolithic lifestyle, and steam engine train enthusiasts. They are focusing on what has been lost, often romanticizing the existence of serfs, hunter gathers, and 19th century train engineers. I think a backward look is important, but would rather try to also understand the emerging and vital explosions of literature that are resulting from Globalism. Reading and the object of the book itself remain central to a globally wired literature even though the same forces that are increasing the book’s vitality are at the same time pulverizing mass markets and national literary canons. [Read more...]

“Lessons From Basra”

By Alison Clement. Originally published in The Sun, reprinted here with Ms. Clement’s permission

The kids tell me we are winning. Baghdad is bad, they say. America is the best.

I work in the library of a low-income, public elementary school. The kids are interested in war. The boys check out all the books about World War I, World War II, weapons, spies, codes, guns, castles, and knights. Boys without fathers are especially interested in combat. A six-year-old who has never met his father likes to show me pictures of his father’s castle, his father’s armor, his father’s helmet, his father’s favorite weapon. He is a sensitive boy who cries easily and wears army camouflage to school. [Read more...]

“The Word Nigger”

By Tom Spanbauer. The preface to the new edition of Faraway Places from Hawthorne Books

I have been trying and trying to find a way to read from Faraway Places and not say the word “nigger.” I guess I could skip around and leave out sentences here and there, but that would be hedging, and if there’s one thing that Dangerous Writing is about, it is trying to get to the truth. The sad, sore, secret, hard truths that make us human beings.

[Read more...]