Tumbles and Reading

Winters in Colorado can be mild or not so mild.  Snow and ice are normal, usually welcomed as part of this beautiful world.  However, along with this joy of white landscapes comes shoveling.  Until that big one shows up with heavy wet snow measured in feet, I kinda enjoy shoveling the snow.  It’s one of those little accomplishments that helps us feel productive.  But on an occasion there is an oops.  I had an oops.  Slipped on the ice and took a not so acrobatic tumble.  After some brief moments of “what just happen isms”, got up and managed to make it inside.  Falling on the ice comes so swiftly that there is no chance to anticipate or dread; one second you’re just fine; and the next, flat on your back with many areas of pain.  And, the worse part, there is no one to blame except yourself.

Net result, I broke my arm.  Writers do not need broken arms.  Good news is that my arm movements are only restricted– did not need a cast.  With a little office re-engineering and a lower table for my keyboard, I’m typing again; just a little slower. 

Obviously this causes some complications with this blog and my progress on current book projects.  I am able to write, just much slower and with many, many rest breaks.  This will have impact on the blog, newsletter and other writing for about a month (I hope no longer than that).  But none of that will stop completely.

This week’s blog (and probably next) will be reprints from past blogs.  After that, my plan is to get back to my normal pattern.  Thanks for your patience.

Fewer Readers Reading Less

I grew up in a household where reading was honored.  This was mostly based on my father’s love of books.  There wasn’t a lot of family discussion about books, but it was obvious they were important.  My father’s bookcase was held in high regard and given a prime location in the living space.  Both of my parents grew up in households that did not have a lot of possessions.  Books would have been a luxury.  My father in particular was raised in very humble conditions.  As his own new family became more prosperous in post WWII America he purchased books and they became his treasures, a luxury he had never experienced as a child.  Coming from this background reading became a habit and a source of great pleasure for me.  Reading books was something I just did, it was natural.

Taking an unscientific survey during Thanksgiving, it is apparent people are reading less and in many cases not at all.  I have read the stories about the decline in hours spent reading books and knew this was happening; but it is still kind of shocking to talk to relatives and realize the new normal is to not read; at all.  Not one book in years or maybe decades, I can’t imagine not reading.  Of course, I write books so I have lots of reasons to be shocked at this trend.

And it is a trend.  The decline in reading has been going on for a couple of decades.  Lots of factors but the most likely culprit is TV.  You would think the number of hours spent watching TV would have peeked somewhere in the past and leveled off, nope.  It is increasing.  People are watching more and more television.  Some of this, I’m sure, is due to the increased options being offered, streaming services and vast numbers of channels on cable.  With the average hours of daily TV watching increasing substantially in the last ten years; there is no time to read.

Reading, TV watching, smoking are all habits.  Once you stop some activity the habit goes away and usually something else fills that need.  TV apparently has filled the entertainment, information need of books.  Many people will think so what, entertainment and information from TV is just as good as books.  Maybe so; but most experts (whoever they are), say it is not the same.

In an article for The New Yorker, Caleb Crain observes: “In a culture of secondary orality, we may be less likely to spend time with ideas we disagree with,” (He) wrote. “I suspected that people might become less inclined to do fact checking on their own; forced to choose between conflicting stories, they would “fall back on hunches.”  Note– “secondary orality”—(is) a sociological term for a post-literate culture.

A post-literate culture–doesn’t that sound alarming?  To me it does.  Our brains function in certain ways and it matters how we get our information.  Reading seems to reinforce many good qualities about “thinking” that do not seem to transfer to such things as television watching.

I don’t have any answers to this trend of fewer readers reading less; but I do find it disturbing.  And not because of book sales.  I think it makes us less capable of deeper more complex thoughts.  I believe we lose the ability to digest nuances in all sorts of matters, from basic living circumstances, to politics to personal relationships.   I also believe we become more susceptible to misinformation; especially well-crafted propaganda.

Or maybe it is more simple than brain functions declining; it is that the love of books is disappearing.  It makes me sad.

Thanks for being a reader!

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Ted Clifton, award winning author, is currently writing in three mystery series—Pacheco & Chino Mystery series, the Muckraker Mystery series and the Vincent Malone series. Clifton’s focus is on strong character development with unusual backdrops. His books take place in Southwest settings with some of his stories happening in the 1960s, 1980s and current times. The settings are places Clifton has lived and knows well, giving great authenticity to his narratives. Clifton has received the IBPA Benjamin Franklin award and the CIPA EVVY award--twice. Today Clifton and his wife reside in Denver, Colorado, with frequent visits to one of their favorite destinations, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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