November 2, 2011


I quoted the writer Philip Roth last year who said great writing in the United States was on the decline. He didn’t say why and I’ve been speculating on the question ever since. Is it true, for example? Certainly the number of self-published books is on the rise. Some of these may be very good and others might be very bad. Was the explosion in self-publishing the reason for his comment? Or does Roth believe the country is becoming less intelligent. If so, the facts are against him.

IQ scores in this country are on the rise (“This Week” 9/16/11). In contrast to that rise, however, the same article says creativity is on the decline. Some experts blame that decline on the schools that must now teach to tests. But scores on creativity have been in decline for the past 20 years so one can’t blame “No Child Left Behind.”

Should we blame TV and video games? Surprisingly, the complexity of plots in either format has increased our ability to handle hard logic puzzles. But again, logic is not creativity and it does not build a better mousetrap. 

(Yahoo Images)

Perhaps we should blame ourselves. As a nation we’ve always looked askance at artists. Hollywood depicts them as rebels or wild-eye profligates who band together in dark cafes, shutting out the world that seems to reject them.  

I confess the decline in creativity is a puzzle and a worry. Society cannot advance without the spark of inspiration.

Regrettably, I have no suggestion to make in response to our current dilemma. It might help to encourage the writer if we all went out and bought a book.