By Stephen Henighan
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Additional info for A Report on the Afterlife of Culture
We know that being “cultured” is part of our social heritage as people who have attained a certain level of material success; we believe that children who read will advance in life, and that we must set a good example for our children. Yet our focus is on the public experience: the book club meeting, the lifestyle, the children’s careers. The actual act of reading, in a suburban house where nearly every room offers the enticement of a screen of some sort and other people’s music washes through the walls, often proves to be an ordeal.
At the end of the 50 A Report on the Afterlife of Culture week, when the family returned to the city, the son still had a hundred pages of the novel left to read. He read avidly in the back seat of the car all the way home. As soon as the car pulled into the driveway, the son, who was approaching the novel’s climax, sat down at his computer and did not open the book again. Perhaps his actions are not surprising. Studies show that children who do not become self-motivated readers by the age of twelve or thirteen are unlikely to develop the habit in later life.
S. -run prisons. The mere fact that Oprah Winfrey can present writers such as Tolstoy and Faulkner as though they were new underlines the problem. It is impossible not to applaud Winfrey for trying to reconnect these writers with the diaphanous non-tradition of post-literate society, but the earnestness of her efforts lays bare our sundering from an organic web of culture. In radically ethnically diverse developed societies, such as contemporary urban and suburban Canada, the commercial imperative conspires with the desire for integration and social peace to subordinate an awareness of historical continuity and imprison us in a cultural afterlife that we dare not rupture for fear A Report on the Afterlife of Culture 41 of exploding the tranquil circumstances in which we live.