For folks in higher education, the back page of the Chronicle Review, the more magazine-y portion of the Chronicle of Higher Education is somehow mythic. It stands for something. I am not sure what -- some sort of quasi-popular essayist kind of writing that draws academics in, as though we are stooping to resognize ourselves in some out sized mirror. (Yes, a very mixed metaphor.)
Among the many essays that appear there, recently Alyce Miller wrote one entitled "Worshiping 'the Book'". The scare quotes around 'the Book' indicate both the irony -- and the mischief -- she intends, as she discusses academics discussing their work. What she argues is this: there is a sort of fetishization of "the" book linked to success within academia insofar as success is about the requirements of tenure as articulated at many institutions. The silliest version she cites is when something published as a series of pieces, in various venues, magically becomes more important, more successful, more emplyability worthy, when published together as a book. Hmmm.
Having said that, the same issue of the Chronicle Review (still Section B of the Chronicle of Higher Education) has a cover story entitled "Things We Do with Books" by Jennifer Howard. The essay discusses research on reading -- in various settings and in various sites. Do you cry when you read sometimes? Do you underline? Where do you read? How will people 50 years from now know what our reading is like? What does it mean that some books sit unread on our shelves (and, for example, Harman Melville never read. . . . this or that book about whaling)? Do I read to keep you away from me on the airpane or at breakfast? Do you read to broker a relationship with others?
These are not only fascinating questions, they are important ones. Hmmmm.
And all this in the December 21, 2012 issue of the Chronicle!
And, BTW, when googling Jennifer Howard, I discovered this piece, in which she writes about the Social Reading Project in which Shimer participates. Small world. I may have found a new wonderful favorite blog.