On the one hand, it seems certain that the recent NEA report alleging a steep decline in reading is alarmist and overdrawn, relying on a tendentious understanding of the history of literacy and underestimating reading in new media.
On the other hand, this morning I found myself in need of a standalone copy of The Tempest. I went with the boy to our local Borders, where, I am ashamed to report, I found no copies of the play by itself. I did find two–TWO–versions of the play “translated into modern English.” Now, I’m not here to make fun of readers of these translations–though if you’re reading Shakespeare in one, you’re probably not really reading Shakespeare–but of the bookstore: How can you have *two* brands of modernized translations, but none of the play itself? Would commerce decline so rapidly if there were *one* updated version (perhaps packaged with a DVD! or manga!) and one copy of the regular play?
It could be a symbolic tribute to what we used to think of (in, yes, a very idealized sort of way) as our shared culture.