I ran across this 1991 interview of Norman Mailer on Fresh Air. Very quickly into the interview, Mailer touches briefly upon the phenomenon of the unliterate when he imagines the future of the novel in America. In 50 years, he figures, people may read one book a year and regard it as a “special and peculiar” activity. Seventeen years later, we might not be too far away from Mailer’s vision.
Terry Gross then throws Mailer an alley-oop by asking where he thinks he stands among the great American writers of his time. Mailer answers matter-of-factly, “I’m not going to name anyone but there are maybe 3-4 of us who may last and I’m probably one of them.” Ha. Classic Mailer bravado. Yet, again, he may be right.
Returning to the idea of the unliterate, I’ve been struggling to solidify a clear purpose for this blog, which may be a good thing. Given that this endeavor is still in its infancy, I would hope that I’d feel the urge to revise the “About” page continually with each new post.
Here’s a notion. If people really did only read one book a year, shouldn’t that book, at the very least, provide a “special and peculiar” experience, and not just something that everyone else reading?
(picture from AFP/Getty Images)