Saturday, April 19, 2014

"The Gutenberg Elegies: the Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age" - Sven Birkets

I just read this book … it is hard to believe it was published twenty years ago … it could have been published last month and still would seem up-to-date. What foresight this guy had. Four or five times I came upon a sentence that made me question that Sven Birkerts would have known this in 1994 and I would go back to the copyright page and check to see if it really did say 1994 … and it did say it every time. 

Here's the last paragraph of the book:

"The devil no longer moves about on cloven hooves, reeking of brimstone He is an affable, efficient fellow. He claims to want to help us all along to a brighter, easier future, and his sales pitch is very smooth. I was, as the old song goes, almost persuaded. I saw what it could be like, our toil and misery replaced by a vivid, pleasant dream. Fingers tap keys, oceans of fact and sensation get downloaded, are dissolved through the nervous system. Bottomless wells of data are accessed and manipulated, everything flowing at circuit speed. Gone the rock in the field, the broken hoe, the grueling distances. 'History,' said Stephen Dedalus, 'is a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken.' This may be the awakening, but it feels curiously like the fantasies that circulate through our sleep. From deep in the heart I hear the voice that says, 'Refuse it.'"

I realize what excellent times I have had the privilege of living through; I do not lament not getting to live far into a future that I am convinced will be far less appealing than, say, 1940 to now has been. 


  1. Well how about read 9.19 am...I've walked to a rose I planted husband drinks green tea in the morning....some was left in the mug...I filled it with water and gave the rose a drink...apricot nectar the rose shade...on the way back to the kitchen I thought of how hectic life has become...a race for what? speed this speed time to gaze at stars in amazing 'twould be to sit at table with a selection of looking at a copy of "For the Love of Old" by Mary Randolph Carter....our society as a whole doesn't appreciate old...I think of those brave souls trying to preserve some of those magnificent old buildings in Cairo...against the money folk...feel a little Ludditeish...G, am sure those celestial beings in charge of books etc will fashion an exquisite spot for you and those like you ;-) I'll see you there...sometime in the future!!!!!! a dear pal of mine took his last earthly breath a little while sure he's romping with books somewhere beyond beyond....sand buckets of exquisite books...and heart depths....

  2. Yes. Have you read All Over But the Shoutin' ?

    1. Yes, I love Rick Bragg and that memoir especially. He can craft a sentence about as well as anyone. Thanks for your nice comment about my mother!

    2. Li'l toughie, made me want to kiss her cheek.