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Still on sale, by the way.  Just saying.

Still on sale, by the way. Just saying.

There are a couple of New York Times articles I wanted to blog about last week, but I was too busy promoting my comic book debut, Daring Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special (featuring the Phantom Reporter).  By the way, here’s a totally awesome, full-length review of the issue.  I thought this piece was very thoughtful, and the author really got what I was trying to do, which I appreciate.

Okay, so first of all, there’s Virginia Heffernan’s piece on the future of Facebook.  I met Virginia Heffernan several times back when I lived in New York, and she seems like a perfectly nice person, but frankly this article is the sort of New York Times self-absorbed fluffery that drives me crazy.  The point of the article: the number of people who are using Facebook may be increasing, but really that’s deceptive because people the author knows, and who clearly matter more than just regular old people, are using it less.  To prove the point, Heffernan interviews a bunch of people whose main qualification for being interviewed seems to be that they are her friends.  They provide their fascinating reasons for using Facebook less or not at all.  Don’t get me wrong.  Of all the major American newspapers in the right-wing media establishment, the New York Times is still the least offensive, but this kind of navel-gazing tends to make me seriously think about canceling my subscription.

It's better than Moby Dick.

It's better than Moby Dick.

Less obnoxiously, the Times also ran a piece on the future of reading in the classroom.  More and more, middle and high school English classes are allowing students to choose their own reading material.  Personally, I think this is a great idea, especially in middle school, where the canonical selections, let’s face it, are fairly crappy.  No one is ever happy to read The Pearl, are they?  Why not instill a love of reading and narrative by encouraging kids to find books they like?  For high school, I do think some kind of structured reading is important for a well-rounded education, but I don’t see anything wrong with supplementing the canon with books the students choose for themselves.  Too many students, who don’t grow up in reading households, have little notion that reading can be fun.  Why not show them?

 There are, of course, some detractors.  From the article:

“What child is going to pick up ‘Moby-Dick’?” said Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University who was assistant education secretary under President George H. W. Bush. “Kids will pick things that are trendy and popular. But that’s what you should do in your free time.”

First of all, if you think high school students ought to read Moby Dick, then you’ve obviously never read it yourself, and you are a big phony liar who pretends to have read books you haven’t.  Secondly, yes, students ought to be reading for pleasure on their own time, but in case you haven’t noticed, they’re not.  It seems to be a pretty good idea to find ways to encourage them to do just that instead of sticking your head in the ground and saying people ought to be something other than they are, you moron.  But that’s just me.

9 Responses to “”

  1. Chuck says:

    I wanted to mention that you can also find a review of Daring Mystery Comics at my “Comic of the Day” blog – http://comicoftheday.blogspot.com/ (plug, plug) – but let me also say how much I agree that ANYTHING we can do to encourage young people to read is a good thing, so I’m all for schools allowing students to choose their own books. It was exhilarating to see the crowds of kids lining up for the Harry Potter releases – those kids will be readers for life.

  2. David Liss says:

    Thanks for the nice review, Chuck. Much appreciated. Also thanks for the post. Unfortunately, I know that studies show that there is relatively little carryover with many of the Harry Potter readers. They like those books, but they often don’t pick up the habit of reading. I think it has to do with the Harry Potter books being experienced as a cultural phenomenon rather than being experienced as books. Thus encouraging students to find other books they enjoy reading in schools seems like a winning proposition to me.

    I give your post an A-.

  3. Larry says:

    Instead of Moby Dick, High School students should read “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read.” Then, they can not only discuss Moby Dick, but also the reading habits of Education Professors.

  4. JM says:

    Dear Mr. Liss, I just read “The Devil’s Company” and enjoyed it immensely! I work in a bookstore (I’m a retired educator) and I will heartily recommend your books to my customers.

    On the subject of students choosing their own books, we booksellers play a part in the current trend when students come in and ask for recommendations for their summer reading. I am frequently at a loss to be able to please many of these students because they want only short, easy books or ones that have companion Spark Notes or Cliff Notes guides. If their parents are with them they rarely seem bothered that their children are apathetic and lazy readers. When I try to help these students I can’t help wondering what motivation they have to actually read the books at all-there won’t be any group discussion in which to participate and unless the teacher reads every book as well, she or he can’t even give a test on them. Isn’t the purpose of a curriculum to create a populace that shares the same basic understanding of a subject and, through which, acquires a context in which to place further learning and experiences? It’s very clear to me that today’s students, and our nation, are being failed by a system that has all but abandoned its purpose. What isn’t clear to me is why we’re allowing it.

  5. David Liss says:

    I couldn’t agree more, JM. This country had a great public educations system in the 1950s, but the end result of that was the social unrest of the 1960s. Now we get what we get. Call me paranoid, but it sure feels like the system is design to produce complacency.

  6. JCfan says:

    Jim (the comic book reviewer) seems very hot for an interview. I think you should indulge him.

  7. Andy says:

    Being a lazy man, David, could you recommend a website that I could pay to bring me your comic books? Then, perhaps all the lazy David Liss fans could have your comic books delivered along with your non-comic books.

  8. David Liss says:

    There are lots of places on-line to buy comics. I’ve had pretty good luck with http://www.midtowncomics.com/.

  9. Jon Johnson (Sir) says:

    David, I did finally get to read your “Daring Mystery” one-shot and enjoyed it very much. I look forward to many more!

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