HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

June 25, 2007
From the Editor

John Turner


I finished the book discussion series on "Comprehending Today Middle East" at the Williston Library near Burlington. We had good attendance all the way through and I enjoyed the interaction with the audience. At the end, though, there was some frustration because we weren't sure we had comprehended today's Middle East, and certainly not well enough to be able to prescribe policies for it.

Americans are used to solutions and when conditions develop for which there are no ready solutions they tend to feel that they have missed something. I don't think we did miss anything major about the Middle East. It's just that the situation there is so weighted down with foolish deeds from the past it's very hard for people to climb out from under them. Clearly, there can be no escape overnight.

There has been a lot of talk about the loss of American innocence since the Vietnam War. The truth is -- I'm afraid -- that process is just beginning. There may never have been a people more in need of accurate history about its recent past. And though some accurate histories are being written most of them cannot get through to a majority of the people. One reason is that people, for the most part, don't read books and another is that journalists, for the most part, don't report on them or even take them seriously. Books, you know, are elitist, and of all the things Americans say they don't want to be, elite is near the top of the list.

We are having a book sale at the Montpelier Library, and yesterday as I was scanning the tables my heart sank at all the books people are acquiring, never reading, and giving away to library sales within a couple of years. "We just don't have the space," is a refrain I hear over and again. I confess that I, to some extent, share the feeling. There were at least a dozen books at the sale yesterday that in the past I would have gobbled up at those prices. And I didn't take a one of them.

I wonder how long it will be before books are considered relics, and all the reading that is done will require electronic devices. Where will all the books have gone by then? Will they for a couple decades become a major component of landfills and then, simply be gone except for portrayals in historical films? And if that happens will it be a bad thing? About the future of books on paper I feel similar to the conditions in the Middle East. I don't know what's going to happen with either of them.


............................................................................................................................................................................


Comment On This Article
(Please include your name so that we may publish your remarks.)


Return to the Table of Contents



Home           Contact Us           Mailing List           Archives           Books on Sale            Links



Articles may be quoted or republished in full with attribution
to the author and harvardsquarecommentary.org.



This site is designed and managed by Neil Turner at Neil Turner Concepts