Sunday, April 4, 2010

Wor(l)d borders

This interesting video has been going around a bit (hat tip, RobAroundBooks), and while I support its underlying message, I find myself a bit at odds with the method used to drive that message home.

You see, I really like Words Without Borders. I get their message. I understand what the point of this gently mocking video is. And as horrifying as it is to see someone butcher my two main interests (music and books) by confusing Tchaikovsky and Tolstoy, I know the questions are kind of "leading the witness" style. For instance, the fact that someone doesn't read contemporary literature doesn't mean they aren't "well read" (whatever that means). The man who says he reads "foreign" British lit... yes, that says something about the status of world literature in American culture (remember this?). While people say embarrassing things, I can't help but feel that the questioners were being a little too manipulative.

Still, the video's overall point (and the gentler second half) is well taken. A few months ago, I went into an independent bookstore, hoping to find the recently released "The Wall in My Head" and was instead told that "Oh yeah, Words Without Borders published something, like, five years ago, but we don't have that." Oh, thanks. Words Without Borders do good work in raising awareness and, more importantly, in actively helping. Do I blame the readers who in the first half of the video seem so ignorant? Not quite. People have the right to read what they want. Do I hope that someday international literature will be commonplace enough that people won't have to scratch their head to remember the name of a contemporary Russian author or will pick up a Peruvian novel because it looks good and is prominently displayed in bookstore? Yeah, I do. Which is why I'll continue to follow Words Without Borders and will pass their message along.

1 comment:

  1. What a great idea. First time I've come across "words without Borders" but hopefully, not the last. I thoroughly enjoyed this blog and plan to follow. Loved your stuff on bookmarking - touched a real chord.
    Power to your pen
    Tristan de Chalain
    Author of "Wolf's Paw"


Anonymous comments have been disabled due to an increase in spam. Sorry!