Sunday, November 23, 2008

Annie Proulx on Yard Sales and the Internet

One more on the (almost entirely) mis-spent $14.00 on Writers [on Writing]:

I keep asking myself "Why do I keep buying such books new when you can get them at used book dealers for a fraction of the cost?" Someone else might suggest that I should really ask myself why I spend life-time on reading such stuff, which usually turns out to be about 98% useless. My answer would be that 2% of useful, entertaining, uplifting, and inspiring is a good percentage. And I did like everything but the title in Walter Mosley's "For Authors, Fragile Ideas Need Loving Every Day" (161-164) and Susan Sontag's article.

Annie Proulx's "Inspiration? Head Down the Back Road, and Stop for the Yard Sales" (185-190) praises the wonders of odd book finds at yard sales and other venues. I can relate to that, having spent more than enough times at book stores, whether they specialize in new or used books. What I cannot relate to is her sentiments about the Internet. She claims that she "rarely" uses it "for research" because she finds "the process cumbersome and detestable. The information gained is often untrustworthy and couched in execrable prose. It is unpleasant to sit in front of a twitching screen suffering assault by virus, power outage, sluggish searches, system crashes, the lack of direct human discourse, all in an atmosphere of scam and hustle" (188).

I would suggest a new monitor, a new CPU, and a different Internet connection for the "twitching screen" and the "sluggish searches," a new operating system for the "system crashes," a serious virus checker for "assault[s] by virus," and a change of place for "the lack of human discourse," the "atmosphere of scam and hustle," and the "power outage[s]."

As to the untrustworthiness and the execrable prose: This cannot be helped. But it is not that much worse than what you may find in many of the books that are likely to be found at yard sales.

I have nothing to say about the claim that the process is "cumbersome and detestable," as I have no clue what she might be talking about.

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