Kill the reading?

The weekend’s Times ran an excerpt from “Cancel Them: The Problem With Literary Readings,” which appears in the latest issue of n+1. Some salient bits:

If you’ve made the mistake of going to literary readings, you know that the only thing that can make them endurable is to ha at each funny bit, and ah at each clever observation, and oh at any grotesque turn. Pity rescues art on these occasions. But art can’t survive it.

A reading is like a bedside visit. The audience extends a giant moist hand and strokes the poor reader’s hair…. And the work he’s reading – well, in this format, who can tell if it’s any good on the page? Nobody.

Elsewhere, Leonard Pierce suggests that arts enjoyed in solitude, like reading, appeal less to Americans than performance-based arts, like film and music, because “performance is democratic! It’s all-American! A play or a television show or a performance piece is part of the process, not like some dirty Nazi drawing or short story.” Pierce also examines the deficiencies of early and recent forms of collaborative writing (or reading), including religious texts, political manifestoes, round-robin novels, exquisite corpse, screenplays, “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, Mad Libs, and Internet message boards.


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