Apparently so. I came to this conclusion the other day when I was one of five authors participating in a group signing at a local town fair. The town, which will remain nameless, is an affluent commuter suburb. Many of the residents work in Manhattan; most have at least an undergraduate degree. So I was dumbstruck when a certain percentage of the adults who stopped by our table and were asked if they’d like to read a good book answered with, “I don’t read.”
They DON’T READ? EVER? I’d expect an answer like that from a surly teenager plugged simultaneously into his Game Boy and Ipod. But college educated adults living in an upscale community? All right, maybe they meant they don’t read romance. I can accept that as much as I’d wish otherwise. But that wasn’t the case. Neither was it that they only read non-fiction (although a few did admit to that with an air that told you without a doubt that fiction -- any fiction -- was beneath them.) No, most who admitted to not reading meant THEY DON’T READ. As in NOTHING. Not books. Not magazines. Not newspapers.
And what amazed me the most was that they admitted this to a total stranger! I’d think that any adult who didn’t read would keep that admission buried deep underneath the widescreen TV, not voice it with a sense of pride. But no, they looked down their noses, their voices filled with disdain, as they proclaimed, “I DON’T READ.” As if reading were a bad thing, something to be avoided at all costs. As if we authors were the enemy, trying to infect them with printed and bound versions of some lethal strain of bird flu.
Now the truth is that the five of us had quite a successful day, selling a few dozen books and passing out promotional literature to many interested people. We’re not complaining. Just mystified by the responses of some who wandered past our table. After all, none of us could possibly imagine living a life devoid of the pleasures of the written word.