Most of the reading I do on a daily basis is what I think of as “light reading.” Sometimes it’s the morning news. Sometimes it’s stories of the sort now called “Long Form” because everything needs a label and this particular label serves to differentiate the sort of light reading one may do over a quick breakfast, between sips of coffee and bites of bagel, and the sort one may require a whole distracted lunch hour to consume. As my inclinations run, most of the Long Form stories I read tend toward tales of true crime, or somewhat serious takes on what a generation ago was an unserious subject: pop culture, by which I mean what, for a time in the university when I was spending time in the university, was referred to as “cultural production,” which was taking over for the former term for things people made with words, verbal artifacts reflecting the culture in which they’re made and reflect, which used to be called Literature. And literature departments, we were told, were on their way to becoming cultural studies departments, and literary scholars would become cultural studies scholars.
The evidence of this sea change was everywhere: Women’s Studies, Film Studies, Other Things that are not Proper Literature Studies. And then there was Creative Writing, academia’s kicked-around but apparently lucrative younger sibling that existed to both generate and comment on cultural production–
nobody was sure if creative writing departments were actually producing literature, but they were producing tuition and endowed chairs. They were also ostensibly generating material for future Professors of Cultural Studies to sift through, in the form of poems and short stories, alongside episodes of Law & Order: SUV, Britney Spears CDs, and Dungeons & Dragons think pieces. (When some of these graduates graduated and failed to set the literary world afire with their poems and stories, they moved on to Hollywood and began writing for television and the movies, and in doing so, some made good for themselves, or became able to afford a mortgage and a car. But that’s a different essay.) In other words, there was then, and is now, a lot of stuff out there to write about, and despite any confusion you might read into my tone here, all this variety is a good thing, at least if you’re looking for interesting things to read during those times you happen to be reading and not watching screens. (Though if you’re like me, most of your light reading is done on a screen.) Continue reading