December 12, 2007

I get pissed off at TNR.

So the New Republic editors are getting all pretentious about book-reading:
[I]t is neither sentimentality nor snobbery to insist that what we mean by the experience of reading may be singularly indebted to the printed book, to its physicality and its temporality.
Oh, please.
The breathless, Bezos-loving man from Newsweek says that he is reading Boswell's Life of Johnson on his iPhone. No, he isn't. All reading is not the same. It takes more than the apparition of words to constitute a book and its inner forms.
No, you're not a snob. Oh, no, no, no.
Bleak House is not e-mail (even if it once was serialized) and Atonement does not deliver information. "Search" is not the most exciting demand that one can make of a text. So let us see how many conversions to literacy's pleasures these gadgets make, and let us be grateful for them; but let us also recognize that we toy with the obsolescence of the book at our mental peril.
And we read a TNR editorial at our peril. Hey, it's a dangerous world.
The scanting of the prestige of books by the print media is a different matter.
The scanting of the prestige.... Could you possibly sound a little more desperate to display your erudition?
It is a kind of betrayal from within. In recent years, in-house book reviewing has been eliminated, abridged, or downgraded by the Atlanta Journal- Constitution, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland's Plain Dealer, The San Diego Union-Tribune--the list goes on. The same cannot be said about management's enthusiasm for, say, sports, or food. "Committing resources" is not least a philosophical exercise: A newspaper discloses its view of the world clearly by what it chooses to cover and not to cover, and with what degree of rigor and pride. When you deprive the coverage of books of adequate space and talent, you are declaring that books are not important, even if you and your wife belong to a book club and your Amazon account is a mile long.
You and your wife? All right, you were already pissing me off with your pretentious locutions, rank nostalgia, and over-the-top snootiness, but now I have to completely redirect my anger. How dare you write you and your wife? Here I am, reading your magazine, thinking you are trying to talk to me, and I run into that phrase you and your wife. You assume your reader is a man (and a straight man at that). I love when a pompous know-it-all falls flat on his — yes, I assume you're a man — face. Was it something about writing like a twit from the 19th century that made you forget that women expect to be treated as equals?

ADDED: "Bleak House is not e-mail (even if it once was serialized)...." Shouldn't the editors have stopped and thought a little more when they realized that parenthetical was needed? Here they are, fulminating about the wonders of a great novel, remembering how they felt decades ago when they read through thick paperback versions of the great Victorian novels and thinking this — my experience! — is the way it should be, and then they realized that the Victorians were reading these novels in bits in the newspaper!
[Charles Dickens] was the first to transform serial suspense into a large-scale social event. In the mid-1800s, it was the fate of a fictitious legal case — Jarndyce v. Jarndyce that had everyone so engaged...

What Dickens had in common with such successors as Aaron Spelling (Dynasty, 90210), Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue), Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice), and Stephen King (online serial The Plant), was a new wave of technology to ride, a huge potential audience to tap, the temperament to exploit the opportunity, and a business model to drive it....

[M]any who might never have read did read, and the audience for substantial literature grew. On the business side, writing fiction became a truly viable profession because profits increased....
Wouldn't Charles Dickens be laughing at you — with your reactionary twaddle and your meager profits?

81 comments:

Simon said...

Less Reader_Iam than Reader_etux! ;)

Paddy O. said...

So, how is your Kindle?

George said...

I clicked on the link to TNR.

The first thing I saw on its website at top left was the headline...

"Turd Pudding."

Bilby said...

[I]t is neither sentimentality nor snobbery to insist that what we mean by the experience of reading may be singularly indebted to the printed book, to its physicality and its temporality.

I've seen that before. Someone says "There's nothing like the feel of a book in your hands". Well, if you like the feeling of it that's one thing, but to claim there's something inherently better than reading from any other format is just silly snobbery. A good comeback is "How can you call it reading if it's not carved on a clay tablet or a written with a feather on a papyrus scroll?"

Ann Althouse said...

It's inept to write that you "insist" that something "may be." If it only "may be," you're not insisting.

Bilby said...

That's a good point, too, but I'm marveling at the pomposity of the idea that if it's not in book form with paper and binding, etc., then it's not as good. With newspapers and magazines he would at least have a good argument that it's not yet convenient or comfortable to bring a laptop into the bathroom with you.

Beth said...

He probably wasn't talking to me and my wife, either.

Balfegor said...

With newspapers and magazines he would at least have a good argument that it's not yet convenient or comfortable to bring a laptop into the bathroom with you.

That's one of those things -- a magazine is in so many ways a cheap, disposable thing, so I don't care about bringing it into the bathroom with me. On the other hand, with my Sony Reader, I feel reluctant to bring it in. It's not that it's unwieldy. The size is just fine. It's just that I don't want to get it dirty.

Similarly, I'd be perfectly happy to swat a fly with a rolled up magazine. Less so with an e-book reader, which is rather more costly.

Revenant said...

The old wisdom: "Don't judge a book by its cover -- judge it by its content."

The new wisdom: "Don't judge a book by how its cover looks -- judge it by how its cover feels in your hands."

Simon said...

Beth said...
"He probably wasn't talking to me and my wife, either."

Well, this is the New Republic, don't be so sure!

Palladian said...

I have a full Moroccan bound copy of Baskerville's 1758 printing of "Paradise Lost" that does make one think that maybe physical books are something special. Anyone who appreciates typography and good printing (of the latter there is little left these days) would never say that the value of a book is solely determined by its literary content. The computer (at least in terms of reading from the display") has nearly destroyed good typography, the fault of the web and the fact that almost everything published on the web is set in one of the same 8 or ten fonts, many of them bad.

I give no quarter to pretentious pseudo-connoisseurs of the trappings of the psuedo-intellectual. But I don't agree that digital versions of books are an entirely adequate replacement for physical books.

reader_iam said...

I'm not sure what on earth I have to do with this thread.

rhhardin said...

The trouble is that books no longer let you brandish a weapon or a letter opener to cut open the pages, to mark the taking of possession.

Both rupturing its virginity and marking it as virgin.

Which is why the wife turns up.

Meade said...

And here I am, a straight wifeless male. Talk about pissed off!

Speaking of that, the New Republic really should be printed on toilet paper. Then no one would think twice about taking it into the bathroom to read, recycle, and reject.

Donald Douglas said...

"Could you possibly sound a little more desperate to display your erudition?"


That clinched the deal for me...and to think, my snobby side nearly won out!

American Power

JohnAnnArbor said...

Pretentious poseur prefers printed prose, publicizes platitudes pretending personal predilection proves paper's primary place propagating publications.

(Actually, I agree with Palladian; maybe higher resolution will allow more creativity and better typography with time.)

Simon said...

reader_iam said...
"I'm not sure what on earth I have to do with this thread."

Mea culpa. No offense (or indeed anything of significance) intended - just an attempt at humour with a play on names, and apparently not a very funny one at that.

john said...

Ann,

This is one of the bad things that American Airlines warned you about this morning. You got snippy then, you got snippy again.

You need, a nice glass (bottle) of pinot noir by the fire, feet up, now you will be just fine.

By the way: the curse on kindle. Books forever.

john said...

By the way again. I do like books on tape (CD), I'm not entirely a luddite.

Susan said...

Speaking of the joy of the physicality of books, has anyone noticed that new books don't seem to smell as good as they used to? I can remember sticking my nose in a new book and breathing in a great potpourri of paper, ink and glue. But not so much anymore. Of course, no book ever matched the fantastic smell of newly mimeographed test papers. Now that was heaven!

Ron said...

I just think that TNR is just grieving the recent loss of Mr. Whipple and his publicly expressed love of paper...

Meade said...

Simon said...
Less Reader_Iam than Reader_etux! ;

I think you're all sort of funny.

First Beth gets to have a wife, then Reader_Iam gets to have a wife, and then the New Republic's flushably pretentious editorial speaks directly to their ilk alone.

Now I'm lonesome AND pissed off.

hawkeyedjb said...

Hey, reading a TNR editorial probably isn't the worst thing that will happen to you today...

B said...

~
Sorry,Ann, but I am in complete agreement with TNR on this one -

- I can hardly believe that I just wrote those words -

- but hey, when they're right, they're right.


It is only their opinion of course but the point is:

Some experiences and the fruit of such simply cannot be duplicated elsewhere.
Emphasis on "fruit", ergo results.

For example - though there is great jazz music around today, we have a sad paucity of great - even good it can be argued - jazz instrumentalists. This is due to the changing experience: up to 30 years ago, most jazz and big band pros - literally thousands of people - traveled and lived on the road together, played 300+ concerts a year and could do great and even phenomenal music with so little effort. Those days are long gone.

Fruit (results): other than a few highly paid prima donnas, it is impossible to attend a jazz (including new wave and fusion) or big band concert almost anywhere that is anything near the quality of what was so readily available almost everywhere just 25+ years ago.

Now that may be time rolling on, and you can't legislate every good life experience into staying around, but jeez - don't make a trade to a new experience and be mad when someone else wants to see the old hang around a little more.

You just might be sorry when it's gone . . .
~

ricpic said...

I was with you up to the point where you went all ballistic over being addressed - you and your wife - as a man. He'd have been less of an ass if he'd ended with, you and your husband? Change the gender addressed and all is forgiven? Say it ain't come to that. Please.

Trooper York said...

Now if Ike Turner had written that essay he would have addressed it to "You and yo bitch." Works for both man and wife and same sex couples as well. Because basically, everybody is somebody's bitch.

ricpic said...

Such a diplomat, that Ike.

Chip Ahoy said...

Nice take down.

It's taking an awful long time for electronics to overtake print, I expected this to happen in a flash. On the other hand, I'll never get out of my mind a fantastic copy of Dante's Divine Comedy and Inferno illustrated by Dore that I found at The Tattered Cover and later gave to Dr. Fred. Two years ago Dr. Fred died and now I can't stop thinking about what happened to that book, wondering if whomever ended up with it understands how fantastic it is. I doubt a digital version wouldn't be as interesting.

joated said...

I enjoy the feel of a good book and the smell of an old library or bookstore. There are some things you can't really do with a laptop or a Kindle--reading in bed is difficult for one. Lying in the hammock on a summer’s day is another.

That said there is more than a bit of snobbery on display in the TNR article. To suggest one means of reading is preferable over another is absurd. To read is the thing. Reap ideas and entertainment from the written word (or the spoken word in the case of audiotapes of the written word) whenever and however you may.

As to the “you and your wife” phrase; it is a very poor choice on the part of the author. Condescension is the least of its problems. By using this phrase the author does indeed alienate many in the audience. Until this point the author has not pinpointed the person to whom the screed is directed and so encompasses—and engages—us all. With that little slip, the author loses a large portion of the audience and forfeits any and all ground made in pressing the argument that books are superior means of reading. I'm surpirsed an alert editor didn't point this out. Oh, wait, this is TNR.

Simon said...

Meade, by "their ilk" do you mean the TNR editorialists and "their ilk" or Beth and Reader and "their ilk"? If the latter, what ilk is that?

Trooper York said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meade said...

Wife-havers, Simon.

PatCA said...

Even gawker is making fun of TNR. I think they are finally over.
http://gawker.com/news/the-new-republic/

Ann Althouse said...

"He'd have been less of an ass if he'd ended with, you and your husband?"

Spoken like a man. You'd never see "you and your husband" just casually, carelessly used in a general interest magazine.

Palladian: I agree that a book can be a great object, but this is like admiring beautiful clothing on your loved one. The person is the same, but the clothes may be great too.

I've been using the Kindle, and I like the convenience and light weight, but it's not ideal. The number 1 problem is that the background isn't white, it's gray. The lack of crisp contrast between the words and the page is a real loss of aesthetic pleasure.

I also miss the physical picture of where you are on the page or in the book, which I think is a great aid to memory and part of the excitement of reading.

JohnTaylor88 said...

"He'd have been less of an ass if he'd ended with, you and your husband?"

Spoken like a man. You'd never see "you and your husband" just casually, carelessly used in a general interest magazine.


What's wrong with speaking like a man?

George said...

LZ O2

Black Dog

Simon said...

In this context, John, it'd seem to connote a lack of the perspective necessary to grasp the significance of the use of the phrase and why one might bridle at it.

caplight777 said...

Probably the finest books were not even printed they were the medieval illuminated manuscripts which were individually copied and illustrated by hand. No doubt people complained about the new fangled print books lacking the real feel and experience of reading as it was meant to be.

Through much of the history of the written word the experience was not only visual but auditory. Books were read out loud to groups of listeners. I've found some books are better heard than read. I tried watching the film the English Patient and was bored. I tried reading the book and found it confusing and quit. but on a trip I listened to it on tape and I found it both enjoyable and comprehensible. In fact, the delirious quality that the author strove for really worked better as an auditory experience.
So it probably would be better said that certain types of experience in reading that people value will not be available to them in kindle.
I wish I had had a kindle on my way to Africa a few weeks ago so I would not have had to have about twenty pounds of books to lug around.

Smilin' Jack said...

...I run into that phrase you and your wife. You assume your reader is a man...

Not at all...the reader could be a lesbian in Massachusetts. Stop being so heteronormative.

It's inept to write that you "insist" that something "may be." If it only "may be," you're not insisting.

If you insist that Huckabee cannot be the nominee, I will correctly insist that he may be.

Palladian said...
I have a full Moroccan bound copy of Baskerville's 1758 printing of "Paradise Lost" that does make one think that maybe physical books are something special....I give no quarter to pretentious pseudo-connoisseurs of the trappings of the psuedo-intellectual....


And Palladian demonstrates that you don't need a fancy binding to display precious irony.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I look at a computer screen all day long at work and by the end of the day I have some eyestrain. The last thing I want to do is look at another electronic screen no matter what size or how portable it may be to read a book.

When I want to read....a book is a comfortble old friend.

You can snuggle up in bed, lay down and read yourself into drowsyness. No flickering lights. When I want to put the book down I just lay it gently on the bedside table and snooze off. I don't have to power a book down and wait for it to turn itself off.

You can read on the beach and not worry about sand in your electronic book or glare on the screen.

I often read books over and over. Even the stains on the pages are old friends. That greasy thumbprint came from that time in Puerto Vallarta when I was eating Churros for breakfast. The wrinkled page where I accidently spilled some tea. All great memories and tactile reminders of pleasant times. Something you will never have from an electronic book.

Middle Class Guy said...

It is a good thing that TNR has good financial backing. It is a totally unreadable publication and I doubt it is taken seriously or has a large subscription base.

Revenant said...

What's wrong with speaking like a man?

Saying "you and your wife" isn't "speaking like a man". It is "speaking to a male audience". Since there is nothing inherently "male" about the subject and no other indication that men in particular were the targets of the speech, the phrase ends up giving off a sexist vibe -- i.e., that even though you're speaking to a mixed audience, you aren't bothering to address the women.

Rather than saying "you and your husband" (which is equally sexist), the sensible thing would be to drop the phrase entirely, so that the statement applies to everyone (single people included).

Rafique Tucker said...

I give no quarter to pretentious pseudo-connoisseurs of the trappings of the psuedo-intellectual. But I don't agree that digital versions of books are an entirely adequate replacement for physical books.

Yes, I agree with that. That sums up my sentiment as well. The rise of electronic media is a good thing and has many great uses, but there are certain aspects of physical books that cannot de duplicated, including the issues you mentioned such as typography( which is something I've never really thought about), and thus print books will never be completely replaced, despite the high-minded luddite paranoia of TNR editors.

Whatever one's view of this, the high-minded snobbery at work in this piece by TNR is hardly called for.

Blake said...

Could you possibly sound a little more desperate to display your erudition?

They could've added "In literary media, as in biology, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny".

I read that once (as "in animation") in an L.A. Weekly article on "The Powerpuff Girls".

Ann Althouse said...

"What's wrong with speaking like a man?"

It's not wrong, it's just that you have a perspective, which is that you haven't noticed when women are excluded so, without real-world context, you're assuming that the exclusion could just as well go the other way. But it never does.

Beth said...

Probably the finest books were not even printed they were the medieval illuminated manuscripts which were individually copied and illustrated by hand. No doubt people complained about the new fangled print books lacking the real feel and experience of reading as it was meant to be.


IT was a difficult transition.

Palladian said...

"And Palladian demonstrates that you don't need a fancy binding to display precious irony."

Not just irony, but precious irony! Of course, to the idiot, all intelligent, discerning people seem pretentious.

Smilin' Jack said...

Palladian said...
"And Palladian demonstrates that you don't need a fancy binding to display precious irony."

Not just irony, but precious irony!


Wouldn't expect anything less of you, Palladian!

Of course, to the idiot, all intelligent, discerning people seem pretentious.

And the pretentious always seem to themselves to be intelligent and discerning.

former law student said...

True that the first half of the article was snobby and bombastic. Here's what I would argue: The printed book is your best defense against technological obsolescence. To anyone who has a stack of LPs, audio cassettes, LaserDiscs, or VHS tapes, the idea of buying a "book" that cannot be read without a player that soon enough, will be available only used, on eBay, is NOT APPEALING. I'm not going to spend money, over and over, to buy something I already own.

SaysMeow said...

I honestly don't see what the problem is. The "You" (of "you and your wife") is not the reader; it is the newspaper publisher who is scanting book review space.

Surely we can all agree that heterosexual married male newspaper publishers are the brothers of Satan, can we not?

Mr. Forward said...

As others have pointed out this is The New Republic. Writers and apparently readers are organized in teams. The husband reads and writes, the wife proofreads, fact checks and edits. It's darn near foolproof.

Palladian said...

"And the pretentious always seem to themselves to be intelligent and discerning."

And the idiot always sees the intelligent and discerning to be pretentious.

Really, this could go on and on forever.

Robert said...

So now writers aren't allowed to direct their thoughts to married men?

K T Cat said...

Bleak House is not an email?!? What twaddle. Reading Bleak House would be a sublime experience if it was written on the margins of an algebraic topology text.

Pogo said...

Really, this could go on and on forever.
Oh! Oh! Me next!
OK.
And the idiot always sees the discerning to be intelligently pretentious.
No, that's not it.
And the intellectual discerns pretense from idiots.
No.
And I was an idiot to pretend to be intelligently discerning.
Dang.
Hell with it.

Richard Fagin said...

"A newspaper discloses its view of the world clearly by what it chooses to cover and not to cover, and with what degree of rigor and pride."

Well, finally, finally finally, one of them admits it in print.

Pogo said...

Count me a book lover. There are many texts which lack any greater value in book form. No doubt the stories and information conveyed are pretty much the same when printed on papyrus or in an e-mail.

It's hard to beat a book's advantages, though. Some books are simply beautiful, giving pleasure beyond the simple transfer of language and thought. It's simple, friendly, re-usable, inviting, enduring, and requires no special training.

1) I find it difficult to believe anyone will ever pay for a first edition e-copy of anything.

2) Do people read the New Republic anymore, except whereby to mock it?

knoxwhirled said...

A newspaper discloses its view of the world clearly by what it chooses to cover and not to cover, and with what degree of rigor and pride.

I'd think TNR would avoid any mention of "rigor and pride" with their record lately.

sbw said...

Bleak House, and any Dickens, is best read... by having it read to you. Originally, by the fireside and candle, the only light available, as the evening's entertainment. And now, by audiobook, in the car on the way to work, in an airport. The words are delicious on the ears.

TNR has no clue, and doesn't know it needs one.

IF you want a new tech joy, buy the Audio CD of P.J. O'Rourke's, "On the Wealth of Nations," -- yes, a delightful, overdue tribute to Adam Smith. Load it into iTunes for your iPod. Listen to it once, because you must, even though you might drift.

Then -- and here's the joy -- listen to it a second time on Shuffle! Imagine! Because it was recorded in three minute segments, you get pithy, important Adam Smith, with your ears regularly cleansed by the rest of the music on your iPod!

MadisonMan said...

the sensible thing would be

This is TNR we're talking of. Sensible? Not so much.

Total agreement with Dust Bunny Queen. I have tattered copies of books that I will re-read. They each contain fabulous memories.

I read the screed to books and thought: Welcome to 1951!

Pogo said...

Gosh, I used simple 3 times in one paragraph!
How cool is that!?

One other advantage to books: they can kill. I smushed a bat with a rather large copy of an anatomy book once. It had been doing that flappy flappy thing, trying to lay eggs in my hair or whatever, and it alighted on a wall. SLAM! The couple having dinner with us downstairs (guests from Japan) heard the commotion. Said she, "You kill something?" Yes, very much.

Not with a Kindle. No. Way.

Pogo said...

Unless it had a phaser!
An e-book with phaser attachment?
iWant!

MadisonMan said...

Not a phaser attachment: Light Saber!

Pogo said...

Light Saber!

ooooooooooooooooooooohh! Yeah.

But then, why sit and read when you have a Light Saber?

kcom said...

Saysmeow nailed it: "I honestly don't see what the problem is. The 'You' (of 'you and your wife') is not the reader; it is the newspaper publisher who is scanting book review space."

In reading that paragraph in its full context, it seems to me quite clear that the writer is addressing the person (either a hypothetical editor or a real one that he has in mind but doesn't name) that decides how much space and importance to give to book reviews in the newspaper. What he is saying is that even if that editor has an Amazon account a mile long (whatever that means LOL), if he is stinting on putting book reviews in his newspaper he is declaring to the world at large that they aren't that important. I really don't see how anyone can read that paragraph and think it is addressed to the reader of the article and not the newspaper editors who make the decisions.

(My guess is that the writer is alluding to a particular editor and and editor's wife whom he is acquainted with who get lots of books through Amazon but whose paper doesn't emphasize book reviews.)

William said...

We've had our differences, Ann, but when you're right, you're right. Bravo!

As for reading locations, I think I tried my Sony reader first at the kitchen table, then in the bathroom, then in my bed. It was great in all three places.

Further, my book purchases have increased since getting my Reader. In the end, practical ebook readers may go a long way to save the failing book publishing industry.

- bill quick

Dave said...

Susan, those smells were the result of 'volatiles' off-gassing and the nanny state police have decided that they're *BAD* for you. (I.e., if you stuck your head in a bag and breathed them for several days you'd get worse than high, maybe, depending on the correlation between your dosage and that of the bred-to-get-cancer mice they tested them on.)

Kirk Parker said...

Balfegor,

"with my Sony Reader, I feel reluctant to bring it in... It's just that I don't want to get it dirty."

TMI, dude, ultra-mega TMI!


FLS,

"To anyone who has a stack of LPs, audio cassettes, LaserDiscs, or VHS tapes, the idea of buying a "book" that cannot be read without a player that soon enough, will be available only used, on eBay, is NOT APPEALING"

Better resign yourself to your fate, which you share with everyone who is unable to use Google to find anything. With the sole exception of LaserDiscs, about which I have no idea, brand-new players (and recorders, in the case of writable formats like audio cassette and VHS) are still very much available. In the case of vinyl, there's an especially thriving market, including turntables at a comparable constant-dollar cost to what you could buy in the '60s that output direct to USB, making converting your old-format media a piece of cake, especially compared to something like scanning a book where you have to handle turning all the pages.

OTOH, anyone who bought original realeases on audiocasette instead of buying LP's and rolling their own kind of deserves what they get...

Virtually Actual said...

Gosh, I've never thought about how great it would be to plug in a book. Or having to pay $400 just to put my literacy to use. This Kindle (burn the books!) sounds neat.

Richard Dolan said...

OK, so the author of TNR's editorial has a tin ear for the language combined with too much appreciation for his own imagined cleverness. Ann speculates that the author was a man because of the "you and your wife" bit. My guess is that he was inexperienced and probably young, someone who has trouble getting past the "it's all about me" moment in every encounter he has. One of the (few) benefits of getting older is that you know how foolish such an over-written piece comes across, and thus it never survives past the first draft.

But I think Ann's reaction to the basic points of the editorial is a bit over the top, too. Is there really someone out there who would want to read Boswell 1,000 page Life of Johnson on an iPhone? If there is, he -- that level of geeky nuttiness seems a sure indicator that we're talking about guys -- is likely to give up from terminal eye strain before getting anywhere near the end.

Does anyone really disagree with the notion that "'Search' is not the most exciting demand that one can make of a text"? The editorial's underlying point is that there is a connection between the way a text is presented (an electronic format with all its inviting bells and whistles vs. the dead-tree format) and the way a reader interacts with the text. I don't read books on screen, and so I don't know whether it's true that those bells and whistles become more important than what the editorial grandly calls "literacy's pleasures" for people who habitually do so. But it sounds right.

Ann's slap-down of the editorial's point that "Bleak House is not e-mail (even if it once was serialized)" seems equally off. E-mail is tossed off, almost never proofread or edited before being sent, and is about as casual and sloppy a format as you could imagine. And it's often read and responded to in the same casual and sloppy way. Litigators have all come to dread producing their client's email, and focus intently on the other side's, for that reason. How is that comparable to Dickens' serialized novel, either in the way it was written or the demands it makes on any reader? Perhaps the editorial is just wrong in suggesting that the electronic format, by itself, encourages a superficial, not-fully-engaged response to a text. It's not an outlandish or even a new idea -- Marshall McLuhan achieved some cachet 40+ years ago with a similar thesis about the importance of format alone. And having read lots of comment threads here over several years that suffered from that sort of thing, I wouldn't be so dismissive of the possibility.

Perhaps, as Ann suggests, "Charles Dickens [would] be laughing at" this editorial as head-in-the-sand nonsense. But even as Dickens was laughing all the way to the bank, he might also see the high tech culture generating all those bucks was not an unmixed blessing.

John Lynch said...

It was all downhill once they stopped illuminating manuscripts.

Chrees said...

A newspaper discloses its view of the world clearly by what it chooses to cover and not to cover

Bingo. While in-house book reviews are becoming rarer, book sales chug along. Question to TNR: what does that tell you about how consumers get their information today? (Bonus points for extending that thought beyond book reviews to news in general--excluding sports and food, obviously)

Simon said...

Mr. Forward said...
"As others have pointed out this is The New Republic. Writers and apparently readers are organized in teams."

Heh. Didn't Marx and derivative marxist-feminist thinkers argue that capitalism rests on the unpaid labor of the wife?

Robert said...
"So now writers aren't allowed to direct their thoughts to married men?"

Also "spoken like a man." Some people miss the point so egregiously that one wonders if it's an innate gift or something they have to work on.

Jeremy said...

Ann wrote: "The number 1 problem is that the background isn't white, it's gray. The lack of crisp contrast between the words and the page is a real loss of aesthetic pleasure."

And my first thought was, "Not reading from the Dover Classics selection much anymore, eh?" New, clean books are lovely, but there's also something wonderful about old, dog-earred dark-grey-text-on-light-grey-pages paperbacks that have been read again and again.

Blake said...

Pogo's on a tear. But if he does get a lightsaber attachment worked out for the Kindle, I'm so there.

The e-book will happen, of course. Within a generation or two (at the latest), physical books will become the specialty items.

Consider: The quality, cost and general bulk will all surpass regular books. Plus, they'll read to you when your eyes are busy, allow you to reference related topics in depth, and hook you up to the OED for word study.

There might even be a page turn interface at some point, though I suspect that will simply be a novelty.

Resistance is irrelevant.

Fat Man said...

You can save time, money and IQ points by not reading TNR.

knoxwhirled said...

t had been doing that flappy flappy thing, trying to lay eggs in my hair or whatever

Holy CRAP I would have died on the spot. I don't like flying things landing on me, fluttering around me, or anything like, esp. in a closed-in space. I freak.

clint said...

It's interesting that the editors chose to publish their Luddite attack on electronic publishing... electronically.

JM Hanes said...

So it's not the text that's important, it's the book! No, wait, it's not the book that's important, it's the book review!

It would be nice if there were "intellectual qualifications" for writing editorials too, alas. File this one, along with an ever increasing percentage of what appears on TNR's "pages," right next to "What I did on My Summer Vacation."

AlphaLiberal said...

Nice takedown!

pst314 said...

"It was all downhill once they stopped illuminating manuscripts."

Bah! You kids don't know anything, anything! It's never been the same since they abandoned clay tablets. Ah, the aroma of fresh clay....