What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant.
“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature. If a writer can make people live there may be no great characters in his book, but it is possible that his book will remain as a whole; as an entity; as a novel. If the people the writer is making talk of old masters; of music; of modern painting; of letters; or of science then they should talk of those subjects in the novel. If they do not talk of these subjects and the writer makes them talk of them he is a faker, and if he talks about them himself to show how much he knows then he is showing off. No matter how good a phrase or a simile he may have if he puts it in where it is not absolutely necessary and irreplaceable he is spoiling his work for egotism. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over. For a writer to put his own intellectual musings, which he might sell for a low price as essays, into the mouths of artificially constructed characters which are more remunerative when issued as people in a novel is good economics, perhaps, but does not make literature. People in a novel, not skillfully constructed characters, must be projected from the writer’s assimilated experience, from his knowledge, from his head, from his heart and from all there is of him. If he ever has luck as well as seriousness and gets them out entire they will have more than one dimension and they will last a long time. A good writer should know as near everything as possible. Naturally he will not. A great enough writer seems to be born with knowledge. But he really is not; he has only been born with the ability to learn in a quicker ratio to the passage of time than other men and without conscious application, and with an intelligence to accept or reject what is already presented as knowledge. There are some things which cannot be learned quickly and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man’s life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave. Every novel which is truly written contributes to the total of knowledge which is there at the disposal of the next writer who comes, but the next writer must pay, always, a certain nominal percentage in experience to be able to understand and assimilate what is available as his birthright and what he must, in turn, take his departure from. If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. A writer who appreciates the seriousness of writing so little that he is anxious to make people see he is formally educated, cultured or well-bred is merely a popinjay. And this too remember; a serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.”
[W]e live in an era of terrible preoccupation with presentation and interpretation, one in which relations between who someone is and what he believes and how he “expresses himself” have been thrown into big time flux. The horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle: That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home.
There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.
Every now and then I come across someone on the subway who defies easy categorization. I remember, for instance, a man who boarded the 3 train in Brooklyn a few years ago wearing military fatigues and a bandolier packed with little glass bottles of liquids. “Who is man enough to buy my fragrances?” he shouted. (When one rider replied that he wasn’t sure, the man responded, “Are you man enough to kill a hooker in Moscow with a crowbar?”) More recently, there was a man on the uptown 6 wearing a pair of oversized New Year’s glasses—the ones where the 0’s serve as eyeholes—who played atonal jazz on his saxophone and asked for no monetary compensation in return. I could keep going, but no doubt anyone who has lived in a city for any length of time has their own mental list of these self-styled subterranean eccentrics, grouped together not so much by any particular characteristic other than the fact that they seem only to exist underground.
Over the years I’ve made casual study of this joyful band of accidental philosophers as they’ve decorated my dreary morning commutes with their Bedazzler guns of mischief. A few months ago I had the good fortune of getting to know one of them on the R train.
Grammar is a piano I play by ear.
If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.
I’ve been working at Barnes & Noble for well over a year now. I am my store’s Digital Sales Manager (even though B&N recently changed that title). So my insight into e-reader devices has grown exponentially over the last year. Here are several things that really worry me about digital books.
First, I’m not opposed to them but I do see some serious flaws in the whole idea. The reading devices themselves are only useful for a certain amount of time. Eventually, just like any other electronic device two things will inevitably happen: the device will eventually break down and become non-operable. Or, the device will become so technologically obsolete it will eventually be useless. The latter typically happens before the former (e.g. Nook first editions are no longer made and have become obsolete, and my Kindle second edition is now obsolete). The former is currently happening. Readers come into the store with their first edition devices, we cannot fix them so they have to trade up because their current device is no longer made. Let me remind you that physical copies of books never become “obsolete” in the same sense that digital readers do. Granted, a book may go out of print, but if you have it and take care of it, it will last until you die. Even then, if it’s taken care of, it will continue to live on.
Second, digital readers/books will eventually cause B&N to downsize their locations. In other words, I believe that digital books will force B&N to close at least 200 or more of their stores, and force the company to find smaller buildings for the remaining stores. The cost of keeping up with current technology is extremely expensive.
Third, eventually, and I’m not sure when, the book in the form as we have always known it will fade. Those who still want physical books will be forced to find them at second hand bookstores. This will cause independent bookstores to either turn to a used books market or go out of business. So, digital books/readers will cost a lot of people their jobs.
Fourth, once a reader’s device no longer works, their only option (unless they get an app on their PC or other device - which will also break down) is to buy another device. And this will go on and on and on. So, not only is the reader buying electronic reading devices (that are not too cheap I might add), they are buying the digital books as well. Buying the reading device itself is shelling out extra money that could otherwise be spent on books.
To me, the above sounds bleak. While I am not opposed to digital books, I simply love and prefer physical copies. What all this means for me is that from now on I will buy nothing but physical copies of books. Because, to be quite honest, sometime in the future I will not be able to do so from a new book vender.
Is there a plus side to reading digital books and using eReaders? Yes. First, you do save space in your home. Second, you can take thousands of books with you on the device when you travel. Third, the new release digital titles are less expensive than their printed editions. Other than these three things, I can not think of any other advantages. Can you?
We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.
William Faulkner; Essays, Speeches & Public Letters
[Happy 4th to those of you who live in the U.S.. Cheers!]