Saturday, October 23, 2010

DeLillo on Paper and Pixels

DeLillo on the threat of the electronic form: "The world is becoming increasingly customized, altered to individual specifications. This shrinking context will necessarily change the language that people speak, write, and read. Here’s a stray question (or a metaphysical leap): Will language have the same depth and richness in electronic form that it can reach on the printed page? Does the beauty and variability of our language depend to an important degree on the medium that carries the words? Does poetry need paper?"[1]

He does not answer the question, but in asking it, he suggests not only that the question makes sense, but also that possible answers need to take into account some sort of "shrinking" in the beauty and variability of "our" language.

I think it is, as one used to say during the time I was (un)fortunate enough to be a graduate student of philosophy, a "pseudo-question." If poetry really needs paper, turn on your laser printer (or, if you must, your inkjet)! And ... no I don't think that electronic media will kill print. I do collect mechanical pencils, even though I do most of my writing "electronically."

1. "Individual specification" is not necessarily bad. When I go out to eat, I do not go to MacDonald's (and just because it does not cater to a "shrunken" context). I like to go to go to a restaurant that targets a smaller segment of the population, i.e. people who share my tastes. I also thought I was reading DeLillo and Markson because they were reflective in ways most people who speak, write, and read are not.

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