Rescuing Reading: Strategies for Arresting the Decline of Reading in Western Australian Newspapers between the Wars

The purpose of this essay is to describe and interpret a cluster of three readerly 'entertainments' conducted in two Perth newspapers, the Western Mail and the West Australian, in the years 1929-1930, and to place them in contexts that enable us to understand them as calculated and connected interventions in a wider campaign of resistance to what was perceived as a decline in recreational reading in this period.

The focus on Perth newspapers allows for more detailed analysis in a limited space than would be possible across a wider print spectrum; but it is not an arbitrary choice. Judging by the frequency of articles in newspapers like the West Australian, the Western Mail and the Daily News, the Perth context does seem to manifest a more pressing anxiety about a decline in the habit of reading, especially in the late 1920s and early 1930s, than is evident in the rest of the country, together with a correspondingly stronger and more explicit determination to diagnose and ameliorate the problem. This is not to say that the problem was seen, even in that context, as one that was particular to Western Australia, or even to Australia as a whole. Many of the newspaper articles on this theme cite observations and comments from elsewhere: for example, the Perth Dai!J ews quotes from an address to the Royal Literary Fund in London by the British Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, regretting that 'family reading ... has gone out of vogue, and the hustle of these days, with the easy processes of the cinema screen and the broadcast talk, offer to idle minds a dangerous distraction', and, more broadly, that 'reading and that delightful process of subsequent reflection which is of the essence of the pleasure which literature gives to the reader is on the decline' ('Habit').

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Published 1 October 2014 in Reading Communities and the Circulation of Print. Subjects: Periodicals, Reading, Western Australia.

Cite as: Buckridge, Patrick. ‘Rescuing Reading: Strategies for Arresting the Decline of Reading in Western Australian Newspapers between the Wars.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 29, no. 3, 2014, doi: 10.20314/als.a9af1776ac.