Is reading becoming a lost art?
That's a valid question for personal biographers who, after all, are creating works to be read. In my case, at least, it's amazing how my reading habits have changed over the years.
As a professional writer and journalist, I spend a lot of my time reading, but it's more or less "drive-by reading." I read, analyze, use and move on. I suspect most of us read this way in this Internet age. We skim through e-mails, blogs, etc., without taking the time to really absorb what our eyes are taking in.
As a kid, my reading outside of mandatory schoolwork was much more leisurely. Outside of the public library, our choices were minimal. I grew up reading newspapers and still start each day with a cup of coffee and the Des Moines Register. But none of my three adult children - all college graduates who were raised in a newspaper-rich environment - are regular newspaper readers.
My reading habits are forever intertwined with my life experiences. As a sports-crazy kid I pored over the boxscores in the Sporting News. As a wishing-to-be-suave college student I read the entire James Bond series by Ian Fleming, alternating with the more gritty works of Harold Robbins. I'm practically a charter subscriber to Rolling Stone and have at various times subscribed to the Village Voice, Playboy, Crawdaddy, Editor & Publisher and Utne.
I'm currently reading "Escaping the Delta" by Elijah Wald, an examination of blues music in America, but it will take me months to finish it. My excuse: There's just too much on my plate these days.
Truth is, though, that reading for fun is not the priority in my life that it used to be. And that's a curious place for a writer to find himself.
More about names. Did you know that the study of personal names has a name itself? It's onomastics and onomastician Roger Darlington has published a treatise on the cultural differences of naming people. It's worth a visit if you're curious about such things.