The Digital Dark Age

Trying to read Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel’s new Booker Prize winning novel I noticed
the text was not centered on the page. On every page, there was at least an eighth of an inch of white space on the right side of the page, above the text, than there was on the left. In other words when the pages were printed, the text was not properly lined up or when they cut the pages up, the printers were negligent in doing that job. The pages belonged in the heap of recycled paper. But they were instead bound into my book, a minor best seller.
Who cares? At least there was ink on the page. Many books I purchase today have so little ink on the pages that the text is hard to make out. Nancy is reading a new book on dogs that seems to be printed on newsprint. We have shown this to our dogs, and they too have trouble with it. Hers doesn’t even smell like a book. Who cares? Dogs only chew on books. They don’t actually read them.
Recently I was in the classy Photography Gallery on Fifth Avenue and a new intern there, recently graduated from a fine eastern university said to me, “I almost never read a book.” Now I hear on the radio that having books digitilized is popular because it makes reading “more convenient”. Why carry a book around, when you have to commute, when you can grab your Kindle and just keep reading on the train, and the subway. Great. I can look over the shoulder of the person next to me and peep into their Kindle. Much more convenient.
Isn’t life convenient enough? We do almost nothing to sustain ourselves. We neither hunt nor fish nor garden. Some one else does it for us, sort of. We do not walk. We fly through the air in huge containers all mashed up like slaves in the middle passage. We zip around in cars not having to communicate with a single other person, not inside our own car. Isn’t that convenient enough. We need not write a letter because we can wiz off an e-mail. We need not do anything at all anymore because machines will do those things for us.
So why are we still here? And now they want to take our books. What will the dogs chew on? But dogs are messy, they get old and piss on the carpets and worse. Thank God for the children and the grandchildren. They can live on into the Digital Dark Age. Everything will be convenient and then they can stop having sex. What a mess that is! And then there will be nothing.

One Response to “The Digital Dark Age”
  1. Joel says:

    There is no excuse for lousy book printing (unless it’s a lousy book, and so who cares – but who determines that?) Quality control isn’t what it used to be I suspect.
    Isn’t the act of reading more important than the means by which one reads?
    Didn’t the onset of books & the written word put a major dent in oral storytelling?
    I still use my oversized, clumsy Random House dictionary from college, but I also use, yes, because sometimes it is more convenient.

    Hopefully rather than contribute to the demise of books, the internet, digital books etc. will be a lateral rather than a vertical innovation, which keeps us interested in reading, challenging & discussing a variety of issues, like the ones you bring up in your blog.

    And besides, shouldn’t we embrace knowledge, storytelling, art etc. in all its forms?


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