Monday, November 17, 2008

The Gutenberg Elegies

Since the original book came out a lot has happened and no more than to Birkerts himself as he reveals in this afterword to the 2006 edition.

He has got two children that are playing on consoles and surfing the web and he has been forced to admit that he himself is using the technology and rather likes the speed. But he looks at it in the wider context and points out that society has changed, not just his household.

“We are quickly acquiescing ourselves into a reality unlike anything we’ve known before. We are replacing the so-called real with the virtual, substituting the image for the thing, moving about ever more in the zone of simulations.” Page 236

Reading has been assaulted and no longer happens in the intense solitary way. Non-fiction has threatened fiction and the support for literary journalism has been eroded by the decline in the support of that type of writing.

Things seem to be shallow but it doesn’t seem to be bothering anyone and avoiding the big questions is now normal.

“Turning our back on full sensory business of living, we have installed another – proxy – world between ourselves and that original place. And each new flashing circuit we mint makes the division between worlds more complete, rubbing away what raw declarations we have left.” Page 249

Reading could be the route to salvation and we must all decide as individuals how we want to balance between the new and old to work out what level we say no more and refuse it.

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