Literacy and Literature

Merriam-Webster Online defines literacy as “the ability to read and write” and “knowledge that relates to a specified subject.” It also defines visual literacy“the ability to recognize and understand ideas conveyed through visible actions or images…” But is it enough to merely read and write and have subject matter knowledge in any given area, and to identify and comprehend established visual symbols and actions to be considered a literate person?

The ability to read about a variety of topics and view diverse media presenting complex ideas with understanding, and write as well as speak in an interesting way for a diverse audience is a definition of the literacy demonstrated by a well-educated person. In addition, listening skills are a highly underrated quality in our society, and are essential to the development of relationships and deeper understanding. It is clear that literacy goes beyond the written and printed word to include speaking, listening, viewing images, and experiencing live, simulated, and virtual performance. Literacy includes traditional topics and emerging knowledge. The well-educated, literate person must therefore be a lifelong learner.

Clive Thompson, the Canadian freelance journalist, blogger, and science and technology writer, wrote in Wired Magazine about the “New Literacy.” Referring to a project called the Stanford Study of Writing, he concluded “…online media are pushing literacy into cool new directions. The brevity of texting and status updates teaches young people to deploy haiku-like concision. At the same time, the proliferation of new forms of online pop-cultural exegesis – from sprawling TV-show recaps to 15,000-word videogame walkthroughs – has given them a chance to write enormously long and complex pieces of prose, often while working collaboratively with others…What today’s young people know is that knowing who you’re writing for and why you’re writing might be the most crucial factor of all.”

Who am I writing for, and why am I writing? On this website, I will offer previews and reviews of current as well as classic fiction that I find intriguing, in order to become acquainted with readers who share my eclectic taste (I know you are out there). I plan to post daily during 2014. My goal is not only to connect with readers but also to explore literary fiction in general. Whether you define literary fiction as a character-driven genre or fiction of higher critical quality, it’s hard to ignore its distinction from plot-driven genres of fiction, while still acknowledging the numerous examples of overlap. This site is for anyone who is interested in reading a good book, and exploring how and why we communicate and learn. Enjoy!

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