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散文佳作108篇 第61期:Are Books an Endangered Species? 书籍是即将绝灭的物种吗?

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Are Books an Endangered Species?

书籍是即将绝灭的物种吗?

Bob Greene

鲍勃·格林

In the house where I grew up, we had a room we called the library. It wasn't a real library, ofcourse, it was just a small den dominated by a television set. But there were bookshelves builtinto all four walls, and hundreds of books---hardback books with spines of many colors---surrounded us in that room. The books, collected by my parents and grandparents throughouttheir lifetimes, were a part of my childhood.

在我成长的房子里有一间屋子, 我们把它称做图书馆。当然,那不是真正的图书馆,它仅仅是由电视机占据了主要位置的一间书斋。但是它四面墙上全部装修了嵌入式书架,上面摆了数百本书籍—那些精装本的书籍呈现着各种颜色,它们在那间屋里把我们团团围住。这些书是我父母和祖父母花了毕生的精力收集来的,它们成为我童年的一部分。

书籍是即将绝灭的物种吗?

My generation---the generation that came of age in the 1950s and 1960s---may be the lastone to know that feeling, the feeling of being surrounded by millions of words; those wordswere the products of years of work by authors famous and obscure. For now in the midst ofthe 1970s, we are seeing a subtle but unmistakable turning away from such things. Thehouses of America, I fear, may soon include no room for libraries. The hardcover book---thatsymbol of the permanence of thought, the handing down of wisdom from one age to the next---may be a new addition to our list of endangered species.

我这一代人—即20世纪50和60年代成年的人—可能是了解这种心情的最后一代人了,那种被上百万文字环绕着的感觉;那些文字是历代知名的和默默无闻的作家们的产品。当前,在20世纪70年代中期,我们正目睹一个不易觉察却毫无疑问存在的慢慢背离书籍这类事物的倾向。恐怕美国的家庭很快就不会再留出房间做图书馆了。精装图书—那思想永驻的象征,那从一个时代向下一时代传留的智慧—可能会添加到我们将灭绝的物种名单上的一项新的补充。

I have a friend who runs a bookstore in a Midwestern college town. He has found that he cannotsell hardback books; paperbacks are his stock in trade, and even those are a disappointmentto him. "You know how er used to see people carrying around book bags?" he tells me. "Well,now I look out the window of my shop, and all I see are students carring packages from therecord stores. The students aren't reading any more. They're listening to albums."

我有个朋友,他在一座中西部大学城开了一家书店。他发现他卖不出精装书;他的买卖主要是做平装、简装书籍,就连这种书卖得也很令他伤心。“你知道我们过去总是看见人们手中提着一袋袋的书,对吧?”他对我说,“唉,现在我从铺子的窗户望出去,见到的都是学生拿着大包小包从唱片铺子里走出来。学生们不再读书了,他们成天听唱片。

And indeed he may be right. Stories of problems young people have with reading are not new,but trend seems to be worsening. Recently the chancellor of the University of Illinois's branchcampus in Chicago said that 10 percent of the freshman at his university could read no betterthan the average eighth grader. As dismal a commentary as this is, there is an even morechilling aspect to it: of those college freshmen whose reading skills were equivalent to the sixthto eight-grade level, the chancellor reported that many had ranked in the top half of their high-school classes.

的确,他说得蛮有道理。关于年轻人读书方面问题的种种闲话虽然不是今日才有,但是不读书的这个倾向似乎愈演愈劣。近来,位于芝加哥的伊利诺斯大学分校校长说,在他学校里百分之十的一年级学生读书能力比一般中学八年级学生好不了多少。这话就够令人忧愁的,可它还有更令人心寒的一面:据这位校长报道,在这些读书能力同中学六年级至八年级程度相当的大学一年级学生中,不少人在中学各自的班上是排名在前一半的学生。

A professor at the same university said that even after four years on campus, some of thecollege graduates could hardly read or write. And the ramifictions this situation brings to thenation are obvious, and will become even more so in the years to come. Those ramifictions arealready being felt in the cultural marketplace. A first work of fiction, if it has any luck at all, willsell perhaps 3000 copies in its hardback edition. Publishers and authors know not to expectmuch better thn that. And a record album? Well, a new group called Boston recently released analbum of the same name. It is their first record, so far it has sold 3.5 million copies.

就是这所大学里的一位教授说,即使在学校念下四年书来,有些大学毕业生仍旧不能读和写。这种状况给国家带来的后果是明显的,而且在今后的年月里将会更明显。我们说的后果已经在文化市场上体现了出来。一部一流的小说,如果有运气的话,可能卖出3,000本精装本。出版商和作家都明白,不能企望超过这个数目许多。而一套唱片呢?一个叫做波士顿的新乐队最近发行了以波士顿命名的一套唱片。这是他们制作的第一套唱片,迄今为止已销售了3,500,000份。

Much of the problem is that we live in a passive age. To listen to a record album, to sit througha movie, to watch a television show---all require nothing of the cultural consumer, save hismere presence. To read a book, though, takes an act of will on the part of the consumer. Hemust genuinely want to find out wht is inside. He cannot just sit there; he must do something,even though the something is as simple an action as opening the book, closing the door andbeginning to read.

问题主要在于我们是生活在一个被动的年代。听一套唱片,看完一场电影,看电视节目--这些不需要文化消费者做任何事,只要他在场就行。而读一本书就要求消费者方面有毅力。他必须真正想知道书里说了什么。他不能仅仅坐在那里;他得做点事,即使这事十分简单,只不过就是动手翻开书本,关上门,然后开始读。

In generations before amy own, this was taken for granted as an important part of life. Butnow, in the day of the "information retrieval system," such a reverence is not being placed onthe reding, and then saving, of books. If a young American reads at all, he is far more likely topurchase a paperback that may be flipped through and then thrown away. In a disposableage, the book for keeping and rereading is an anachronism, a ponderous dinosaur in ahighspeed society.

对我前面历代的人们来说,读书天经地义是构成生活的一个重要部分。但是现在,在这个“信息检索系统”的时代,读书和藏书已不能获得这种尊重。如果一位美国青年要读书,他很可能去买一册简装书,这样就可以很快地翻完,然后把它扔掉。在一个讲求把没用物品处理掉的时代里,要保存和重读书简直是与时代格格不入的行为,就像个笨重的恐龙在高速的社会里寸步难行。


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