While pundits splutter thatn nobody reads anymore and that the general public has the attention span of a (no pun intended) newt, reading group have been springing up all over town for years. But if you think that teading refines, if you think that joining a reading group will cultivated your mind and improve the world, let me tell you: Literature kills.
I should know. For six years in Cambridge, Mass., I belonged to a book group composed of lofty academic types who liked ot read heavy-metal social therory. Every thing went fine so long as we stuck to dead white males-Freud, Marx, that sort of thing. but when we switched to live ones, things got spooky. One ofter another, they came to sticky ends immediately after we closed the book on them. French semiotician Roland Barthers was killed in a car accident. One political therorist (Louis Althusser) killed his wife and ended up in a mental institution. Another (Nicos Poulantzas) leaped to his death from a tall buiding, carrying his collected works in his arms. By the time British cultural therorist Raymond Williams expired- of natureal causes, so it was said-we were calling ourselves the Kiss of Death book group. Small wonder that shortly after I left town the group switched to reading aloud from Shakespeare.