Readers vs Writers? Who is the most important to literary culture?

From Kissimee Charter Academy
Readers vs Writers? Who is the most important to literary culture? Do we celebrate readers enough?

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing the Internet and I came across a fascinating article by Laura Miller at Salon.com entitled "Better yet, DON'T Write that Novel."

It is a discussion about NaNoWriMo - a month long writing extravaganza which encourages people to attempt to complete a novel by writing a set target of words per day. 

In the article, Miller outlines her arguments against NaNoWriMo - perhaps saying that she outlines her complaints about NaNoWriMo would be more accurate. I don't necessarily agree with everything she says, but having just completed two dreadful novels provided to me for review by a publisher, as well as earlier this year reading and reviewing an equally dreadful self-published memoir, I have to admit to being slightly sympathetic with her views.

What interested me most about her article though, were comments she made toward the end of the article about celebrating readers.

Here is what she says:

"Yet while there's no shortage of good novels out there, there is a shortage of readers for these books...

 So I'm not worried about all the books that won't get written if a hundred thousand people with a nagging but unfulfilled ambition to Be a Writer lack the necessary motivation to get the job done. I see no reason to cheer them on. Writers are, in fact, hellishly persistent; they will go on writing despite overwhelming evidence of public indifference and (in many cases) of their own lack of ability or anything especially interesting to say. Writers have a reputation for being tormented by their lot, probably because they're always moaning so loudly about how hard it is, but it's the readers who are fragile, a truly endangered species. They don't make a big stink about how under appreciated they are; like Tinkerbell or any other disbelieved-in fairy, they just fade away.

Rather than squandering our applause on writers -- who, let's face it, will keep on pounding the keyboards whether we support them or not -- why not direct more attention, more pep talks, more nonprofit booster groups, more benefit galas and more huzzahs to readers? Why not celebrate them more heartily? They are the bedrock on which any literary culture must be built. After all, there's not much glory in finally writing that novel if it turns out there's no one left to read it."

This got me thinking - do we celebrate readers? How can you celebrate a reader? Should we celebrate readers at all?

Without readers, the need for written works would become redundant. Does this mean that they are more important to literary culture than writers?

Without writers there wouldn't be any literary works to begin with and of course writers are deserving of celebration. This is done in many ways. There are many writing awards out there - some more prestigious than others, some for fiction, some for non-fiction, even awards for publishing houses. At Writers Festivals authors have their opportunities to be admired and celebrated by giving talks and doing readings from their works.

But I am not sure how exactly Miller would suggest that we celebrate readers more heartily? I know she says "why not direct more attention, more pep talks, more nonprofit booster groups, more benefit galas and more huzzahs to readers" - but how would this be done in practice?

Is there some way of having a public celebration of readers? Perhaps 'The Day of the Reader' one day per year with associated activities and fundraising attempts to raise money that assist improve literacy rates amoungst children?

I know that all I have really done is pose more questions than I have answered, but these are some of the things that I have been thinking about after reading Miller's funny article.


Are readers the most important contributor to literary culture? Do we celebrate readers enough? How can be celebrate readers more? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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