Ticket to Read
Two memoirs celebrate the joys of living with books
My Life in Middlemarch
by Rebecca Mead
$25.00 List Price
In times of transition, clarity can be hard to come by, and a lucid observer is invaluable. Such rare voices can seem, in the hubbub, easy to ignore: It has been almost twenty-five years since Bill McKibben wrote The End of Nature, and yet, rather like the Tank Man of Tiananmen Square, his valiant protest has—so far—failed to halt the juggernaut.
The loss of the particular, private leisure of literary reading seems, arguably, of little importance next to the destruction of our planet. And just as there are those who insist that the ecosystem is perfectly sound, there are many who will contend that literature is not in jeopardy, that while we’re in the process of a logical and inevitable leap from paper books to digital ones, there’s no reason to question the health of our reading nation. In 2011, a staggering 328,259 new books were published in the United States.
And yet. Just as the slow alteration of our environment leads, at first imperceptibly but ultimately at great speed, to unimaginable changes in our planet, so, too, less tangible shifts in human behavior will have, over time, dramatic consequences. Over the last twenty years, we have submitted, often joyfully, to the encroaching mediation of our lives. These developments enable me to look up in one second the number of books published in the United States each year; to identify every unattributed quotation in Muriel Spark’s The Girls of Slender Means; to summon the bibliography of any author who interests me, learn a little about each of her books, and order one within minutes for rapid delivery to my door.