The explosion in adult coloring books appears innocent, but like so much in our strange world, it says much more about Americans than initially appears. In fact, the top ten books sold over 1.5 million copies. 2015 was the year of the adult coloring book. These coloring books have pages with intricate patterns or images. The books themselves are merely a symptom of a greater problem.
I am a addressing them here as a symbol.
This is the newest trend in the long term infantilization of the small portion of the public that still even bothers to pick up a book, period. At least ten years ago people read Harry Potter, a competently written children’s novel. Pew Research numbers state 76 percent of Americans read at least ONE book in 2013. Those seem like good numbers, but they give no indication as to what they’re reading.
This appears petty, but in times past adulthood meant leaving childlike things behind; superheroes, coloring books, and ball games were something kids did and then left them to pursue jobs and family. Adults had their own entertainment in novels, magazines, theater, and a number of other activities. Adulthood begins much later than it did in decades past, if it begins at all.
While this is not entirely the fault of Joe Public, it shows how low even our entertainment is. Reading a book takes work, unlike watching television or picking up one of these coloring books. Learning to draw or paint, an activity difficult to learn to do well, also takes too much effort for the mass of society. Modernity has ground out our spirits so much even our leisure is low effort.
During the Greek Dark Age after the Dorian invasion, the ancient Greeks stopped making art or writing anything. This Dark Age preceded the Classical Period, a tremendous flowering of artistic intellectual output. The culture industry manufactures bland bestselling novels and hit songs. As with the Greeks, our cultural dark age is bound to end, and perhaps with something better in the horizon.