Friday, November 03, 2006

Two depressing thoughts for the weekend

From David Remnick's Reporting (£6.99 in hardback from the bookshop below), Philip Roth's entertainingly precise sketch of literature's route to hell in a handcart:

"Every year, seventy readers die and only two are replaced. That's a very easy way to visualise it," Roth said. By "readers", he said, he means people who read serious books seriously and consistently. The evidence "is everywhere that the literary era has come to an end," he said. "The evidence is the culture, the evidence is the society, the evidence is the screen, the progression from the movie screen to the television screen to the computer. There's only so much time, so much room, and there are so many habits of mind that can determine how people use the free time they have. Literature takes a habit of mind that has disappeared. It requires silence, some form of isolation, and sustained concentration in the presence of an enigmatic thing. It is difficult to come to grips with a mature, intelligent, adult novel. It is difficult to know what to make of literature. That's why I say stupid things are said about it, because unless people are well trained they don't know quite what to make of it."

And, via Obscene Desserts, a fragment of Iraq news from The Times that reads like the grimmer parts of Ryszard Kapuscinski's African reporting:

The morgue classifies victims according to their injuries; if a victim has been beheaded, he is a Shi’ite killed by Sunnis. If he has been killed by a power drill to the head, he is a Sunni murdered by Shi’ites. Most victims have been tortured. Bodies are dumped by the roadside and lie there for hours.

J Carter Wood couldn't find anything to say after that, and nor can I.

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