Serious Readers

I was involved with computers before being involved with computers was cool, so I’ve encountered the attitude Johnathan Franzen displays here before (I recall someone saying computers shouldn’t be used in schools, for instance, because they encourage “binary thinking”), but it is a little odd to see it in these modern times.  Beyond the fact that the phrase “serious readers” gives me a pain right between my eyes, Franzen seems a little befuddled about what computers can and can’t do (and more strangely about the power of paper).

I’m sympathetic to Franzen’s preference for paper books, and I share it myself, but I try my best not to dress up my random preferences as philosophy.  Computers don’t, in and of themselves, make things less permanent, or more sloppily crafted, and as it happens it would be kind of hard to publish something these days without having it show up on a screen at some point anyway.  I reckon that these days most people would find the idea that using a computer encourages “binary thinking” (as opposed, to, one presumes “decimal thinking” what with our base-ten number system) fairly silly, and I imagine in a few years the notion that only “unserious” readers use e-readers will seem just as odd (or maybe it already does).

Again, I’m sympathetic with Franzen, but it seems as though we’re being told a great deal about the proper way to do things here, and I like Edison’s feelings on this more than Franzen’s.  According to Franzen, unless writers do as he does and avoid the internet, they are doing it wrong.  Fair enough, I’m used to writers telling me about the One True Path (although most seem to be willing to allow us to get the words on the page however we like).  But sheesh, telling people they are reading wrong?  I hearby extend my permission to anyone who wants to read my scribblings to do it however they like.  You can even do it while eating, if you like.  You’re welcome.  I reserve the right to change my mind if I become as famous as Franzen, though, and insist that my works only be read in leather-bound tomes embossed in gold leaf.  So you might want to hurry up and get to it, before the new rules come down.

~ by smwilliams on January 31, 2012.