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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

curated: why books (and movies) are so important

Read a book!

posted in:
easter eggs
  • Bluejay

    But that depends on WHICH books we read, no? Surely there are authors who write their own narrow biases and dark worldviews into their work. Ayn Rand was a novelist, after all. As was Jean Raspail, the racist Camp of the Saints author who inspires Steve Bannon.

    The internet was supposed to be universalizing and empathy-building, too: look, you can read blogs of all philosophical and political persuasions, by people from everywhere in the world! But what happened was we settled into our own echo chambers, reading to reinforce our views rather than challenge them. Literature can expand our view of the world, true, but only if we don’t retreat into books that we’re already predisposed to agree with.

  • Bluejay

    …and, yes, that *does* apply to movies too. Movies CAN build empathy — just maybe not the many, many misogynist/racist/fascist movies you’ve given a red light to. :-)

  • Danielm80

    “Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.”

    We have to think more carefully than ever about the kinds of stories we’re telling, if we’re inclined to write books or make movies. But we still need stories more than ever—really good stories, because the people who are telling the dangerous kinds of stories are really vocal right now, and some of them have a really big platform.

  • Agreed, but I do think that doing *any* sort of reading is better than doing no reading, and may even lead one to discover books outside one’s comfort zone. Not reading at all guarantees that that will never happen.

  • Dent

    “There are still people naive enough to assume that they’ll actually enjoy jacking straight across with someone…”

    Even with brain to brain communication there is no guarantee we’ll like or even understand what we see in one-another. Everyone has to learn to balance skepticism with open-mindedness.

  • Danielm80

    I was just reading a New York Times Magazine feature about “25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music is Going.” I particularly like the essay that goes with song 24:


    The singer, arguably, got all sorts of terrible messages from American culture, and the essay writer, arguably, got all sorts of terrible messages from the song. But we can feel empathy for both of them, and understand the experiences of people who think differently than we do. And maybe that will also help us understand our shared culture a little better, and encourage us to change it when we need to.

  • Bluejay

    Sure. Now we just need to convince the people who hate country music to listen to country music, and convince the people who hate hip-hop to listen to hip-hop, and convince the people who hate Christian pop to listen to Christian pop, and convince the people who hate modern jazz to listen to modern jazz. :-/

  • bronxbee

    i watch the series Black Sails and last night (for reasons not primary to this comment) one of the pirates, Jack Rackham, is sitting in a waiting room hoping to meet with a merchant. a young woman sits near him and breathlessly starts to ask him a series of questions about various pirates…. each more outrageous than the next, until she asks Jack about a really good friend of his, now dead. Jack asks where she gets her outrageous information, and she replies, “from the newspapers.” as he rises to go into his meeting, he tells her, “stop reading newspapers, try reading books. newspapers are full of lies. he was a good man and a good friend. and *that* is the truth.” she mutters something under her breath, and jack says, “what was that?” the girl replies, “the truth is not very interesting.” and that pretty much says it all. many people would rather hear an interesting lie, and are not interested in hearing the “truth”.

  • Tonio Kruger

    One might even say that some people can’t handle the truth. Indeed, I think I remember somebody saying that in a movie once…

  • Yeah, that doesn’t work. haha. I can’t stand any of that music you listed, minus jazz, which is just harmless background for me.
    I won’t listen to country or hip hop just because it has better messages in it. I simply don’t like the sound. At all. Ever.

  • Danielm80

    I dunno. I don’t like rap or hip hop, but I’ve been listening to Kate Tempest obsessively this week, because I came across her music online.


  • Tonio Kruger

    Speaking as a hardcore bibliophile who has little affection for the current American president, I would love to able to endorse this particular op-ed but it does rely a bit too much on wishful thinking for my taste.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Hey, it’s cool. A certain type of music either speaks to you or it doesn’t. There’s no sense in trying to force these things and a smart person wouldn’t try.

  • Bluejay

    It’s natural for people to gravitate to certain preferences in music (and other art forms). But what annoys me is when they dismiss a genre because of misconceptions or an incomplete understanding of how much that genre encompasses. There are people who will run away from anything labeled “hip hop” because they assume it all sounds like bombastic mid-90s gangsta rap. (It doesn’t.) There are musical fans who have avoided listening to the Hamilton soundtrack because they see “hip hop musical” and assume it’s all toneless yelling over drum machines and nothing else. (In fact it’s packed with plenty of melodic songs.) If we’re going to reject something, it would be nice to at least have a fairly accurate understanding of what it is we’re actually rejecting. And to do that, we might actually have to sit down and listen to it with an open mind, at least once.

    As with literature, people tend to settle into their comfort zones and are unwilling to branch out and experience things that may surprise or discomfort them (or yield delightful new discoveries). No one can be FORCED to try something new, but we can always argue that it’s a good idea to try new things anyway. And remember that genres are bigger than we think; just because something has been put into the same general category as something you hated doesn’t mean you’ll automatically hate the new thing too. We miss out on a lot because of preconceptions.

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