I ran across this quote today, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it:
‘Reading groups, readings, breakdowns of book sales all tell the same story: when women stop reading, the novel will be dead.’
I didn’t know the context of it, so I didn’t know what point he was trying to make. Are women the only readers of novels? Are novels written for women? This could be taken in many ways, and I’m not saying I find anything necessarily offensive in it, I just thought it was curious. I had not heard about statistics tracking novels and women and reading groups and so on.
Anyway, I was puzzled enough to search out the source of this quote to try to get some context. It turned out to be a short article in The Guardian, from September, 2005.
An interesting attempt to give away redundant books turned into a small social experiment. Here’s another small bit of it:
Every young woman we approached – in central London practically everyone seems young – was eager and grateful to take a book. Some riffled through the pile murmuring, “Read that, read that, read that …” before making a choice. Others asked for two, or even three.
The guys were a different proposition. They frowned in suspicion, or distaste. When they were assured they would not have to part with their money, they still could not be persuaded. “Nah, nah. Not for me. Thanks mate, but no.” Only one sensitive male soul was tempted.
Perhaps it was just the crowd that tends to gather at lunch outdoors, and I know from experience that young men aren’t great readers. Well, Evil Son #1 is. I buy him books for Christmas, birthdays, etc. which he happily accepts and digs into. I even alerted him to a book signing at Powells a couple years ago by a favorite author of his and his friends, R. A. Salvatore. A group of them went, bought books which were duly signed by said author, and a good time was had by all. I was sorry I hadn’t gone with them, even though I’ve never read his books. He sounded like he is quite a character and was very friendly and chatty. Evil Son #2 sort of lost his taste for reading at an early age, much to my dismay. I keep hoping someday he’ll run across one of those books that creates new synaptic pathways in the brain, leaving you forever altered. He’s young yet, it could happen.