Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I liked The Da Vinci Code, but I watch PBS

Charles Taylor wants to save literature from the literati.

Reading, for Solomon, is always, without exception, a good thing. To hear him tell it, no one ever picks up a trashy book to kill time, no one ever gets around to that classic he always meant to read and finds that it bores him silly. Reading will always leave us better informed and better citizens, Solomon would like to think. But the very nature of a democratic society doesn't offer any guarantees. "Without books," Solomon writes, "we cannot succeed in our current struggle against absolutism and terrorism." Where does he think the terrorists got their absolutist ideas from? And what lessons against absolutism will someone who turns to the works of Ann Coulter or Michael Moore learn?

Solomon wants people to be encouraged to read, and they should be. But it's not going to happen as long as the champions of literature keep telling people the culture they enjoy is nothing but junk, and as long as they keep extolling the highest achievements of language but don't share a language with their countrymen.

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