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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?




Are Books an Endangered Species?


Bob Greene


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。


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.


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."


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.


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.


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.


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.


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