That song from Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is the creepiest damn thing in the world of children. I love it. I also love when he pulls that kid’s hair out in the chocolate room. Classic. Johnny Depp’s version was more openly hilariously hostile, but I think I prefer the backhanded commentary of Wilder.
That phrase though, induces a very wondering, panicky feeling, not unlike the dread that’s been swirling about the world of books for the last decade or so. (See how far I’ll go to make a quote relate?) Are books dying? Are picture books dying? Is literary fiction on its way out? Is anyone reading the short story? These questions make my head hurt. I walked into a closing Borders bookstore yesterday. Made me want to throw up. (Well, that and the really bad cherry slushy I was drinking.) Look, I love books. I love reading. I’m a big advocate for libraries and reading in general, of reading to kids, particularly. Because if my parents hadn’t read my ears off and suffered through a hundred or so renditions of the same unicorn book, I might not have learned to read as well. And if you read well, you tend to write better. And if you write better, you tend to do better on research papers and that. So read to your kids. They’ll become CEOs and scientists.
The title of this blog, Read, Dammit! Read! doesn’t just mean read MY stuff. Come on. I’m not an asshole. But read something. Myself, I just read and loved Ty Roth’s SO SHELLY. It’s haunting, beautifully written, and will both drain and fill your soul. I’m making a switch next month to the short story with Holly Black’s The Poison Eaters collection. And in the fall, I’m buying the new Skippy Jon Jones for some kid-aged friends.
Next week, I’m departing for London, my old stomping grounds, where I will meet up with old friends and revisit favorite places before heading to the London Book Fair and being drowned in book talk. Ah, all the book talk. See, the panic and dread about the decline of books doesn’t bother me. I’m glad of it. When people feel panic and dread they take action. They spread the word. They become a force.