Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Old men write books about cataclysms," therefore heroism and mortality

Philip Roth discusses his new Nemesis and what he intuits is the decline of the novel in the wake of the lit-digerati. This is undoubtedly an old codger's take on "those darn things," though few would deny that questions of concentration (both the attentive and process of pure cognitive consumption sort) linger in most everybody's mind at the merest mention of e-texts and alternative reading (or should it go by another name) practice. Is the tradition of holistic mental engrossment via alphabetic print justified? What are the benefits/disadvantages of our tuning-out capacities? Isn't reading an archaic and wasteful distraction? Is a return to primarily oral/aural/visual transmission desirable? Hasn't television and new media already supplanted that musty literary medium? Is there a use for history/values-based cultural conditioning? The ultra-capitalist answer is simple. My own, however, is not. But, half-ironically, I don't have time to divulge that now. This blogging business leaves too many openings for hyperlink-sensitive absorption and confusion/obfuscation of sources and their legitimacy. And anyway, that grad. school personal statement isn't going to finish writing itself.

Rather than an acute sense of the responsibilities of the reader, there's always room for that on those of the writer; which Philip Roth succeeds:

"'Writing a book is solving problems,' he said. 'You don't think about your place in this or that, or prizes, or reviews, or anything. It's the last thing that's on your mind, it's the work that is on your mind.'"

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