Saturday, July 10, 2004

43% of Americans didn't do it in 2002

Do what?, I hear you say. Well, the answer is… alarming. In 2002, very nearly fifty per cent of the American public didn’t even pick up a book with the intention of reading it. I found this article via MoorishGirl, and it does disturb me because I genuinely love reading proper books. But is this figure actually representative of a non–reading cadre of Americans, or does it hide those who simply spend a lot of time reading erudite and informative electronic texts?

Just to balance it all out, I've been reading (although, sadly on–screen) a very interesting Guardian Review profile of writer Peter Ackroyd who has given all us readers much pleasure – and has given London an entirely fitting tribute by writing its biography. Lucky London: it’s always too busy to write its own, and would never hope to finish the damn thing. Heh. :o)

It’s always a pleasure to read a carefully–printed and –bound book, because the typeface and paper seem to add so much to the experience if you have a certain mindset. Earlier this week, the cornerstone of what will be New York’s replacement for the World Trade Center was laid, and fittingly for the the city, the typeface chosen for the carved inscription was Gotham.

The choice of Gotham is more than a matter of typographical arcana (though as typographical arcana go, it’s not bad). As the first tangible element of the Freedom Tower — and, by extension, the trade center redevelopment — and as an image seen nationwide on Independence Day, the cornerstone sent an aesthetic signal of intent.

And staying with Ground Zero and all that it represents and has given birth to, I went to see Michael Moore’s notorious–before–it–was–released Fahrenheit 9/11 last night. Like most Moore, it’s partisan, although with so much press and public apathy in America at the moment, that is no bad thing. My dad, who has also seen it, said: “In all those clips of Bush, he’s presented as just… a fart. But there are so many of them that you just overwhelmingly know that that’s what he is: a fart.”

After having seen the thing myself, I think a few things: one, that its win at Cannes earlier this year is understandable due to the strength and urgency of the message; two, that its violently mixed reception is due to the strength of the message; and three, that the message itself is ‘trifaceted’ if there‘s such a word.

  • Message one: big business will always control the Presidency and senior politicians in today’s America.
  • Message two: this is shown by the increasing transparency of the current administration’s lies over Iraq.
  • (Aside: yesterday’s publication, by the US Senate Intelligence Committee, of its report (large PDF) on the prewar Iraq ‘intelligence’ is one more nail in the coffin of the vapid excuses peddled by big business / Bush.)

  • Message three: by lying to pretty much everybody about domestic and international terrorism and Iraq, and by being feckless in its own country as well as abroad, the Bush administration has been guilty of betraying the USA’s traditionally cautious and largely moral stance on war, which is that an army shouldn’t be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Predictably, the reviews are all very mixed. But I think it’s compelling viewing for anyone.

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