October 7, 2003

no one really reads anymore, at least nothing more substantial than Oprah's South Beach Diet-inspired suggestions

More on banned books:

"Where is today's 'Madame Bovary,' today's 'Ulysses,' today's Henry Miller and liver-handy Portnoy -- those books that gave as much joy to those who condemned them as to those who read them? Not only are they not being read; they're not being written. Once in a while we import a dare worthy of the most rabid book bans (think of Salman Rushdie, although his 'Satanic Verses' are probably the darling of 700 Clubbers by now). But Philip Roth's continuing biennial surprises aside, the old lions, once as prolific as they could be controversial (Mailer, Morrison, Updike, Vidal, Bellow) are fading away. No one is replacing them, lending credence to how Jonathan Franzen, one of their few potential heirs, recently compared literary America to his native St. Louis -- 'a once-great city that had been gutted and drained by white flight and superhighways.'"

"Banned books are like adult shops along those superhighways, eliciting barely a shrug. You might stop in once in a while, but disappointment is certain. Even literary subversion has been franchised by the ordinary and the predictable."

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