Dec 31, 2008, 07:55AM

Lit snit

Literature has always been a minority taste.

1) What Frum shows — what almost all people who make this kind of argument show — is that literature is a minority taste: Look at how many more hits there are for the Sopranos than for Kafka! But literature has always been a minority taste. If you want to argue that that minority is shrinking, you going to have to acquire some comparative data. You’ll need to define literature, and you need to gather as much information as you can about literacy rates, book sales relative to population, library use, and so on. You’ll need to figure out what time frame you’re talking about: the past thirty years? Seventy-five? Two hundred? You’ll need to get as much historical context as possible, and context from other societies, by reading historians of reading like Robert Darnton and Jonathan Rose. Once you’ve done all that work, you will be entitled to draw some tentative conclusions about whether the reading of literature is declining or not, and, if there is a decline, whether it’s from a well-established norm or from a unique high point.

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