Thursday, April 21, 2011

For We are Never Finished with Our Not Dying

That's a line from a Rilke poem. Maybe he was prophetically referring to the book:

It is perhaps a symptom of print’s decline that the current conversation about the book’s demise has forgotten all these other ones. Instead we shuttle between two equally hollow poles: goofball digital boosterism a la Negroponte on one side and on the other a helpless, anguished nostalgia for the good old days of papercuts. Call it bibilionecrophilia: the retreat of the print-faithful into a sort of autistic fetishization of the book-as-object—as if Jeff Bezos could be convinced to lay e-profits aside by recalling for a moment the soft, woody aroma of a yellow-paged Grove Press paperback; as if there were nothing more to books than paper, ink, and glue.

For the record, my own loyalties are uncomplicated. I adore few humans more than I love books. I make no promises, but I do not expect to purchase a Kindle or a Nook or any of their offspring. I hope to keep bringing home bound paper books until my shelves snap from their weight, until there is no room in my apartment for a bed or a couch or another human being, until the floorboards collapse and my eyes blur to dim. But the book, bless it, is not a simple thing.

The essay, which is actually pretty interesting, is called, yes, "The Death of the Book." (I wonder if it's too late to trademark that phrase and make a mint.) I'm eagerly awaiting the essay proclaiming the death of grandiloquent proclamations of the death of this or that object or tradition. Ooh, meta.


  1. You could write it, but it's just as unlikely to happen as anything else that's "dead". fwiw, I look forward to that essay too.

  2. Got the title already: "Even death may die."

  3. Brian M11:10 AM

    Already been done. :)

    All hail the words of the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred:

    "That is not dead
    which can eternal lie.
    And with strange aeons
    even death may die."

    -The Necronomicon

  4. Where ya think I stole it from, man? You think I actually come up with my own material? I'm an intellectual magpie, just snatching other people's shiny objects.

  5. Brian M12:51 PM

    What is it about Lovecraft? How can something so creepy have spawned such an obsessive subculture? There is something about his mythos (and his followers, of course) that just seems to have struck a nerve.

    Heck, Azathoth is now my Screensaver image!

  6. Brian M1:05 PM

    On a more serious note, via WhoIsIoz I discovered another blogger who callshimself The Promiscuous Reader. His Blog, Thatissogay, has an interesting essay on the "death of the book" in which he notes that the Golden Age of...well...promiscuous reading...never really existed, that most people and kids played outside or watched television or were busy working as farm labor all day etc.