Confession: Yes, I read Parade Magazine, that goofy insert in the Sunday paper. I’m especially fond of “Personality Parade” (my main source of celebrity gossip) and the column by Marilyn vos Savant, who, if you don’t know, is in the Guinness World Records Hall of Fame for “Highest IQ.”
So she knows what she’s talking about when she wrote this: “Educators define four categories of vocabulary. Our reading vocabulary is the largest by far, followed by our listening vocabulary. Then comes our speaking vocabulary, which is much smaller, and finally our writing vocabulary, which is smaller still.
“Each category gets more challenging. To read, one need only recognize the word and comprehend its meaning in context. To speak, one must recall the particular word without prompting and insert it instantly into the appropriate context. That’s much more difficult.”
No wonder writing is so hard.
In a more intellectual section of the Washington Post, Jonathan Karp, publisher and editor-in-chief of Twelve, an imprint within the Hachette Book Group, wrote a piece about the future of the book. You can read the whole thing here, but here’s a hopeful note that novelists may wish to cling to:
“Many categories of books will be subsumed by digital media. Reference publishing has already migrated online. Practical nonfiction will be next, winding up on Web sites that can easily update and disseminate visual and textual information. Readers of old-fashioned genre fiction will die off, and the next generation will have so many different entertainment options that it's hard to envision the same level of loyalty to brand-name formula fiction coming off the conveyor belt every year. The novelists who are truly novel will thrive; the rest will struggle.
“Consequently, publishers will be forced to invest in works of quality to maintain their niche. These books will be the one product that only they can deliver better than anyone else. Those same corporate executives who dictate annual returns may begin to proclaim the virtues of research and development, the great engine of growth for business. For publishers, R&D means giving authors the resources to write the best books -- works that will last, because the lasting books will, ultimately, be where the money is.
“That's my hope, at least. As I said, publishing is a business based primarily on blind hope.”