Are Books Irrelevant?

May 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Last week New York Magazine featured a piece by Kathryn Schulz in which she discusses her reasons for not liking Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby despite how “sacrosanct” the book is.  Though I disagree with her dismissal of Nick Carraway as a passive observer, Schulz is mostly correct in her criticism of Gatsby’s “heavy plot, heavy symbolism, zero ­psychological motivation.” But that’s not a reason for me to not like the story.

More disturbing to me than her criticism of a very popular, very American novel is her assertion that books are “borderline irrelevant in America.”  The Gatsby-bashing came in the run-up to the release of Baz Luhrman’s film adaptation, so film is the only reason NY Mag is even mentioning it.  And it’s very sad to think that a professional book critic thinks that books are irrelevant.  What must she think of her own job as a critic of them?

Books may not have the same standing in popular culture that they once did, but that doesn’t make them less relevant.  Everyone may be talking about Kim Kardashian’s latest tweet, but does that mean it matters?  The depth of ideas that can be communicated in a book can’t be replicated in any other medium, even film and television, and great ideas are always relevant.

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