Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

From A Year of Morning Thanks


I read somewhere recently that a study in Europe—a comprehensive study that asked participants to register exactly what they did with their leisure time—had concluded that the amount of time people there (but there’s no reason to think it would be any less here) read in their spare time fell from 55% in 1955 to 21% in 1995. And 1995 was the year the Netscape browser made the internet available to everyone; since that time, things could only have gotten worse for books, as they have for magazines and newspapers. It seems clear to this writer and teacher of literature that people are reading less, and I include myself within that number, blogs and internet news notwithstanding.

As a reader of books I am neither profligate nor promiscuous, never have been; and, I admit, I have my prejudices. I choose the books I read with too much deliberation maybe, but there really is so little time.

Yesterday, I started another, after some painstaking check-out line second-guessing: a memoir titled Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman best known, perhaps, for her part in the Dutch movie Submission, which she did with a man named Theo Van Gogh. Van Gogh was brutally murdered on a street in Amsterdam for his biting criticisms of the Islamic faith. Ms. Ali is no longer a resident of the Netherlands. Like him, she was an outspoken critic; unlike him, she was born and reared in the Muslim faith.

I am deeply interested in the intersection of cultural life—in the case of Infidel, how a young Muslim woman acclimates to the unimagined freedoms of Western culture, in this case, secular Holland. Just plain terribly interesting.

Honestly, I have tons of things to think about and worry over, but when I start a new book—and it starts well, as this one has—I am thrilled to be brought into a whole new dream, a whole new vision.

This morning I’m thankful for books—the good ones, and especially the new ones, full of promise. They offer us the world.

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