How can we make sense of the world without reading stories? | Rachel Cooke

Last week, Ruth Rendell claimed that reading novels is a dying art. Sadly, she might have a pointNo one can say precisely why John Williams's novel Stoner has become a bestseller almost 50 years after its first publication. After all, plenty of books, "forgotten" or otherwise, are recommended by word of mouth and yet most will not go on to sell more than a few hundred copies. And it's hard to know in what ways, if any, its story – a young man falls in love with literature and thus a new world is revealed to him – might have touched people. Many of those who rushed to buy it will not yet have got around to opening it and some will never read it. Stoner will languish on their shelves, its spine unbroken, just like Jung Chang's Wild Swans, the non-fiction hit of 1992.But still, it has given us something to think about, this dusting down of so plangent and substantial a novel. On Radio 4 last week, Ruth Rendell, the novelist and Labour peer, suggested that Stoner is a book for our times, her argument being that we live in an age when reading is for most an alien pastime, just as it is to William Stoner until he has an epiphany. (Asked to elucidate a poem by a professor, he is unable to say anything except: "It means... it means..." and yet, in this moment, everything changes; the verse, whether he understands it or not, has touched him on some powerfully deep level.) "We are told that it isn't happening," said Rendell. "But it is. Reading is no longer something that everybody... Continue reading at 'The Guardian'

[ The Guardian | 2014-01-05 00:00:00 UTC ]

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The Best Short Stories about Christmas Everyone Should Read

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