Watching Digital Nation on the sadly condemned TVNZ 7 last weekend, I couldn't help but feel a little frustrated in hearing about professors who no longer assign any book with more than 200 pages, and students who pass off classics as 'read' after simply flicking through a five-minute plot summary; acknowledged contemporary demands on time, of course, was the governing issue.
Despite the slightly disappointing nature of this more casual approach to literature however, let's be honest, the amount of understanding most teachers require (or even want from their students, I suspect) with regards any assigned readings, could no doubt be gathered in the reading of a five-minute plot summary ...
Who cares if the first glimpse of psychotic musing in American Psycho arrives after seventy-five decidedly slow-paced pages? Or that Irvine Welsh conveys character and chapter identity through accent/dialogue alone? Or that Phoebe Caulfield in The Catcher In The Rye spells the name of her fictional detective 'Hazle' instead of Hazel?
It's all relative to how and why you read of course, and a recreational reader is obviously at leisure to place emphasis upon that which they find most compelling, whereas texts merely ordered for ingestion by professors will have different priorities assigned their way.
Maybe this is where distinguished poetry actually becomes relevant again; a way of condensing without the dilution.
This devolving rant stems more from resentment at having been forced in school to read books in a contrived fashion (ordered in pursuit of a book's plot, underlying themes, its structure, and all manner of similarly associated and equally sterile motifs) than any actual disappointment at the state of the world's readers, however. And what could I do about it all anyway? Punish those who can legitimately research a classic book in five minutes by thrusting upon them seventy-four pages of how to select the right business shirt and shave properly?
Nah, t'would be as pointless as my studying a page in hope of determining verbs from nouns.
The above image is from here