where the writers are

(NOTE: Galoshes, sou’westers, and golf umbrellas are de rigueur for the literati this season. Swaddled in rubber and neoprene, readers and writers and editors jump puddles in search of what’s out there in the world of books and what’s to come. Freelance editors and writers stay at home with their electric heaters on high to drive out the damp, and stick zinc and plastic buckets under ceiling leaks. The only consolation is that the precipitation could be snow, and who has time to shovel?) “And working writers are about the only people I can talk to. They’re the only people that understand how serious having fun is and how much fun being serious is.” —James Crumley, 1985 interview Writers also talk about the problems of literacy, for their own base reasons (more readers means more readers buying their books) and concern about the health of literate culture. In order to be erudite on the subject, they have to read the studies where numbers take over for words. Dr. John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University, has released his study of America’s most literate cities for 2007, and the results are sort of surprising and sort of expected. The six indicators used to compile the list are newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, education levels, and Internet resources. Here is the top ten (out of 69 cities listed): 1. Minneapolis 2. Seattle 3. St. Paul 4. Denver 5. Washington, DC 6. St. Louis 7. San Francisco 8. Atlanta 9. Pittsburgh 10. Boston Minneapolis is an easy call since there is not much to do, and the same with Seattle and its annual 340 days of rain, dull office jobs, high divorce rate, and wretched freeway system. St. Paul has the same problems as Minneapolis, Denver is a mile high and reading is easier on taxed lungs than long distance running, Washington, DC has an imperial government run by Apocalypse addicts, and St. Louis is in Missouri. San Francisco falters at number seven for no good reason. What is keeping these people from reading, Pilates, investment opportunities, mall shopping? Have civic pride, even though the local newspapers suck, and get turning pages. Atlanta is Atlanta, Pittsburgh the same, and Boston has too many beans and not enough history. Compare the most literate cities with the top 10 bookselling cities and the ranking goes weird. The indicators used to compile this list are the number of retail bookstores for every 10,000 people, number of rare and used bookstores, and how many American Bookseller Association members. 1. Seattle 2. San Francisco 3. Minneapolis 4. Cincinnati 5. St. Louis 6. Portland, OR 7. Pittsburgh 8. St. Paul 9. Cleveland 10. Washington, DC Seattle may be number two with readers but is number one with booksellers and San Francisco rises above its embarrassing seventh in the literate to take second place. Cincinnati, Portland, and Cleveland have great bookstores without the attendant great readers. Avid followers of the book whose home towns have missed both lists should ask, do we move for the company of like-minded people or for greater selection?