Newsletter January 2010
"Read any good books lately?"

It seems that this question, once so common as to become a cliché, is something of a rarity these days – and if asked, the answer is likely to be "No."

If true, that might be due to a couple of factors. First, maybe a lot of books these days just aren't very good. But there are plenty of old ones that have stood the test of time.

Second, despite all our labour-saving devices, this generation is working harder and longer than ever before. Many of us have neither the time nor the inclination to read several hundred pages of a book – especially when we can watch the movie of it.

But if we are living in a hectic world, does it matter? Well, perhaps. A great novel has a lot more in it than any film can encompass. And some certainly don't do justice to them. As JW Eagan said, "Never judge a book by its movie." Anyone who has seen the Nicholas Cage version of "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" or the Tom Cruise version of "War of the Worlds" might agree!

Also, lots of people think that our culture has become dumbed down: and if so, perhaps not reading books might have something to do with it. Ray Bradbury said, "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."

On the other hand, a movie or TV programme can be an excellent way to get across complex information in an interesting, thought-provoking and stimulating way. Yes, it's a common view that everything on the TV is rubbish, and that Hollywood movies are fodder for undemanding people. But by the same token, most of the books published every year are completely forgettable. There are good books, good films and good TV programmes, if you look for them. Perhaps it's not so much whether you read or watch, but the quality that matters?


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