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Music, dancing, film, theatre, poetry.

Why are they important to you?

How are you involved in them?

Do you take an active part in any of them?


Look at the title of the passage. What arguments do you think the writer might use to answer the question? Now read the passage to find any of your ideas mentioned.


Will Our Children Read Books?

Before describing the hierarchy of the arts in the 21st century, it is sensible and sobering to recall the pundits’ forecast for the 20th century. The headline stories were the rise of cinema and then television. And these successes, it was assumed, would mean failure for older forms of entertainment and information. Since the 1950s, commentators have regularly predicted that these two new visual giants would eventually destroy theatre, radio, newspapers and books by taking over the functions of these earlier forms or eroding the time available for enjoying them.

In fact, despite the advent of multi-channel, 24-hour TV and multi-screen movie theatres, it can be said that only two cultural forms have died in the past 100 years – music hall and the letter – and the second of these was killed, not by television but by the telephone, before, in the strange way of these things, being somewhat restored by the inventions of the fax machine and e-mail. So the cultural story of the 20th century – an epoch of electronic invention and mechanical radicalism – has unexpectedly been that of the durability of traditional and particularly printed forms.

Looking forward then, we should be aware of pessimism’s poor record. The book, for example, seems as obvious a candidate for redundancy now as it has since the middle of the 20th century. Where people previously assumed that teleliteracy would finish reading, they now point to computer literacy as the executioner. Yet the book, to an extraordinary degree, has learned to coexist with its visual rivals.

Most Hollywood projects derive from novels; often trashy ones, it is true, but also the classics. And not only do movies and television series descend from books, but, almost routinely, they return to them as nearly every screen product has its tie-in book. It all suggests that the desire of the viewer to follow the visual experience with a print experience is even more tenacious than ever.

The threat to the conventional book in the 21st century is, though, subtly different. Where the first challenges were alternatives to reading, the current ones are alternative ways of reading: CD-Rom, computer disc, the Internet, recorded books. The smart money would bet that the standard home or library reference book is going the way of D for Dodo, simply because the new technology can make information more visually appealing. But, with regard to fiction, it seems a reasonable assumption that the portability of the standard book and the aesthetic affection that established readers still have for it as a product will confound pessimism in the future.

In fact, the arts most vulnerable to change, at least in Britain, are television and theatre. This is because both depend on state subsidy: a political idea which must be regarded as highly unlikely to see out the next century. The effect of this will be the increased commercialism of both television and theatre. The casualties will be new theatre writing, the riskier classical repertoire and high-quality television journalism and drama for a general audience, although the last two of these may survive on cable subscription to the middle classes. The rise of television in the 20th century may not, as feared, have killed the book, but the continuing rise of popular television through the 21st century will kill high quality television programming.

Clearly the twentieth century was startling both for the emergence of three new mass cultural pursuits – television, cinema and computers – and for the survival of the existing ones. This then is the big question for the 21st century. Do we now have our full cultural hand? Might it expand further? Or will there be a showdown between the old and the new? And will our children no longer read books?


Ex. 40. Explain the meaning of the underlined words and phrases from the text. Give their Russian/Belarusian equivalents. Use them in the sentences of your own.

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