CRF Blog

Saved by the Bell

by Bill Hayes

In Saved by the Bell for the New Republic, William Giraldi reviews Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-four Books That Can Change Lives by David Denby.

Here’s the thesis driving Lit Up (please type it out and hand it to your teen): “The liberal arts in general, and especially reading seriously, offer an opening to a wider life, the powers of active citizenship (including the willingness to vote); reading strengthens perception, judgment, and character; it creates understanding of other people and oneself, maybe kindliness and wit, and certainly the ability to endure solitude, both in the common sense of empty-room loneliness and the cosmic sense of empty-universe loneliness. Reading fiction carries you further into imagination and invention than you would be capable of on your own, takes you into other people’s lives, and often, by reflection, deeper into your own.”

And here’s the clincher: “If literature matters less to young people than it once did, we are all in trouble.” There’s really no “if” about it, and so yes, we are all in trouble. The question is: How pernicious, how permanent is that trouble? Lit Up is no alarmist screed but a steadfast appeal by a writer who understands that without a devotion to literature, we’re a hamstrung bunch. [more]