When was the last time you cracked open an epic poem and began to read it? Do you casually browse through "Beowulf" when the mood strikes, or thumb through "The Canterbury Tales?" Probably no, because that stuff is way old. And it's got me wondering whether or not anyone will even be reading books 100 yeas from now.
Who's Actually Read Virginia Woolf?
In the year 1915, Virginia Woolf published "The Voyage Out." Have you ever read it? She's a well-known author, or she was, and enjoyed a highly successful career before she walked into the ocean one day. The point is, she was a successful working writer in her own time and you recognize her name. But have you read her books? Did you read this one, published 100 years ago? Did you read any of them ever? Would it make a difference if I told you that you can read her books for free?
Probably not, right? Honestly, I don't know what "The Voyage Out" is all about. I haven't read Virgina Woolf, either, and despite the perhaps high-handed tone of this post, I'm definitely not going to. I don't read old books and I don't know a lot of people who do. Sometimes I wonder if we're living in an era that will mark the fall of books, one day in the future.
Illiteracy is still a very real problem. In the U.S. alone, one in four children grow up without learning how to read at all. More than 70 percent of inmates can't read above a 4th grade level. They aren't reading any books, 100 years old or otherwise.
Language has changed in the last 100 years, maybe not for the better, and this is why those old books are so strange to read. New books come to capture what life and language are like now. Let's just hope that there are always people around to read them and to write them.