Another great article on Reading and Readers from Roger Ebert…
It’s especially sad that, given digital books and the physical accessibility of “books” in so many formats today, that more people aren’t reading these authors.
I read a lot and I’m going to make a commitment to myself to read some of these “old friends” so at least I can say I read them. And quote them….
“Consider: who at this hour (apart from some professorial specialist currying his “field”) is reading Mary McCarthy, James T. Farrell, John Berryman, Allan Bloom, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, Edmund Wilson, Anne Sexton, Alice Adams, Robert Lowell, Grace Paley, Owen Barfield, Stanley Elkin, Robert Penn Warren, Norman Mailer, Leslie Fiedler, R.P. Blackmur, Paul Goodman, Susan Sontag, Lillian Hellman, John Crowe Ransom, Stephen Spender, Daniel Fuchs, Hugh Kenner, Seymour Krim, J.F. Powers, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Rahv, Jack Richardson, John Auerbach, Harvey Swados–or Trilling himself?”
I read through this list with dismay. I have read all but two of those writers, love some, and met five. Yet I know with a sinking feeling that Ozick asks the correct question. Who at this hour is reading them? Paul Goodman, whose books so deeply influenced and formed me? Edmund Wilson, a role model? James Farrell, whose naturalistic Studs Lonigan evoked a decade of Chicago life? Mailer, who boasted he had beaten all of his contemporaries?
How many of them have you read? Some, I suspect, but they belong to your past. Most of you will have read Ginsberg’s “Howl,” but how much more of his poetry? I have his collected poems on my shelf, but don’t care to take them down. Whitman’s poems, on the other hand, are at the side of my chair and I read one every morning. I have every one of Edmund Wilson’s books, in the sublimely uniform Farrar Strauss & Giroux editions. Who cites him? Susan Sontag? Remembered for defining Camp.