Thursday, May 19, 2011

Look at Our Magic Now

I don't have anything to add to it, but I thought this was a pretty cool essay:

We are surrounded by magic, some good, some evil and some both at once—an excess of magic, a confusion of it. Solitary Kenko brushed his cranky, acerbic thoughts onto scraps of paper that survived through the centuries only by luck; they might just as well have rotted on the walls or gone out with the trash. But look at our magic now: you can Google Kenko, and if you have a Kindle or Nook or iPad or some other e-reader, you can reassemble all of Kenko or Dante or Montaigne electronically upon a thin, flat screen—from which it may also vanish at a touch, in a nanosecond.

A trompe l’oeil universe: creation and un-creation—poof! Precious writers are miraculously diffused through the Web, you fetch them out of the air itself. And they may disappear more quickly than Kenko’s vanishing blossoms or shrouded moons. The universe is not a solid thing.

Writing is—we have always thought—a solitary and even covert labor. Of course a great writer need not be a hermit. (Shakespeare was not.) I have wondered whether Montaigne or Kenko or (God help us) Dante would have been on Facebook or Twitter, gabbing and texting away in the gregarious solidarities of new social forms. Are there such things as exile or retreat or solitude in the universe of Skype, the global hive? Does the new networking improve the quality of thinking and writing? It undoubtedly changes the process—but how, and how much? We don’t know yet.