If you do the math and round down, it is safe to say, "Nobody reads anymore." A lot of folks - mainly teachers, librarians and pseudo-intellectuals - argue that is a bad thing.
Apparently, one can learn and have wonderful experiences reading, so, fine, I guess I think the world might be better if more people read. But really, that type of statement is missing the real problem: a lack of literary icons.
Shirtless, drunk and holding a rifle, Ernest Hemingway certainly was an icon. Hemingway was the Dos Equis guy before there was a Dos Equis guy. Bullfighting, wrestling lions and smoking crack, he has got to be the No. 1 literary icon of all-time (although I am unsure if he actually wrestled lions or was alive when crack was created).
But the real reason Hemingway is the No. 1 literary icon of all-time is that he actually "brought it" with his work. Other literary icons, including Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson, had the icon part down, but their work is not even close to the having the depth and significance of Hemingway's. I'm not saying I don't like those guys (My favorite of the three is Thompson.), but they don't threaten Papa's No. 1 ranking.
I truly believe if there were one, just one, super-duper literary icon alive, then more people would read. I cannot think of one living literary icon who is under 70, and I even perused the New York Times bestseller list to look for one. The best two names that popped out were Nick Hornby and Dave Eggers - but they're not even close to literary icons.
Sure, I like both of those guys. But the bald Hornby is far too wimpy to be a literary icon. Eggers, for God's sake, seems like a weasel. Plus, he was in the same graduating class as my cousin Melissa in the suburbs of Chicago at Lake Forest High. Heck, the big-time actor Vince Vaughn, who also was in Eggers and Melissa's graduating class at Lake Forest, may be closer to being a literary icon than Eggers.