American Literature: F@*& Yeah!

October 9th, 2008 at 9:00 am

As we eagerly await the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature and raise our eyebrows in disagreement with permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Horace Engdahl’s assessment of American literature as “ignorant,” “insular,” and generally lacking, there is much about American “literature” making the news.

So take this, Horace!

Speaking of insular and ignorant, author Jerome R. Corsi was recently detained in Kenya.

And the Collins English Dictionary wants to remove 2,000 words from its pages in order to make room for new ones. If an American doesn’t win the Nobel Prize in Literature, it will be because their dictionary failed to enlighten them about words like muliebrity and olid.

Combating this removal is Ammon Shea, who read every single of the 59 million words in the Oxford English Dictionary. Get that man the Nobel. Or a hobby.

In a continuing segment on the Future of Reading, the New York Times has published a rousing article on the convergence of the printed word with video games. It’s a fascinating and troubling inquiry into a burgeoning facet of learning and entertainment. As someone who takes literary merit and literacy quite seriously, I just can’t get behind the thinking that Everything Bad is Good For You. Video games and books seem to provide two distinct avenues for development. Both are important in their own right for sure and while there is certainly room for convergence, video games are no substitute for the nuances afforded in books. While a video game, such as a flight simulator, may be able to teach and hone a pilot’s skill at the stick, it takes a book and the written word to explore the peculiarities and complexities of science, meteorology, and mathematics of things like turbulence, rain, and wind sheer.

Here’s the thing. The times, they are a changing. For the longest time, books have been our default format. They have been the cheapest, easiest, most effective way to accumulate knowledge and experience. But as technology develops, there are new mediums for interacting with the written word and acquiring information with just as much, if not more, efficacy.

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