Friday, July 1, 2016

The Guardian Reviews A Literary History of Word Processing

The review comes to the conclusion that even though many writers have subjective aversions to the word processor, in all likelihood:
Such variety of attitudes and habits proves mildly less interesting than the history of the technology itself, because the former amounts to very little in the end. Writers used either to think word processing would make for seamless prose without colour or texture, or fear that everything would be overwritten, extravagantly qualified. ... In fact, nothing much happened: you can’t tell a word-processed novel from one dictated from the couch or typed on a vintage Olivetti. The tools fade away, as tools are meant to do. Kirschenbaum cannot prove that word processing affected any writer’s style, so he must make do with the banal observation of writing’s materiality: “Our instruments of composition, be they a Remington or a Macintosh, all serve to focalise and amplify our imagination of what writing is.” (Yes, Kirschenbaum’s grammar check seems to be switched off here.)
And I like this even more: "This review is being drafted with a German fountain pen of 1960s design – but does it matter? Give me this A4 pad, my MacBook Air or a sharp stick and a stretch of wet sand, and I will give you a thousand words a day, no more and likely no different."[1]

Couldn't agree more!

I am much less sure about the last sentence: "Writing, it turns out, happens in the head after all."[2]


1. Compare The New York Times on A Literary History of Word Processing.

2. Se the posts on externalization on this blog. In my view, it is very important to externalize thought, but less important what medium you chose. I know this is controversial.

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