jeudi 11 avril 2013

Writing, biro scrawls and digital media : Driving into the future, using the rear view mirror

I am fascinated by the physical act of writing - the scratching of a pen into paper, the painted hieroglyph, the clackety-clack of the typewriter, the biro scrawl, the keyboard - and the influence that the medium, the tool the writer uses, has upon the text s/he is crafting. I like to type, I love the hand-written manuscript, the chaotic notes, the scrape and swerve of ink, the fetish of choosing my tools, pens and notebooks, the use of the margin... Obviously, the medium used to communicate the text - the parchment, the printed book, an illuminated manuscript, a Kindle, a computer screen - also shapes the reader's experience of the text. 
Considering the influence of digital media on reading and writing, Marshall McLuhan words seem pertinent, "We drive into the future using only our rear view mirror"; we don't really know where we're going, only where we've been...Looking backwards, Robert Darton, in 'A Case for Books', quotes from a correspondence between two scholars in 1471, twenty years after the invention of the Gutenberg printing press,

'My Dear Francesco, 
I have lately kept praising the age in which we live, because of the great, indeed divine gift of a new kind of writing which was brought to us from Germany....things turned out quite differently from what I hoped. Because now everyone is free to print whichever they wish, they often disregard that which is best and instead write, merely for the sake of entertainment, what would be best forgotten, or better still, be erased from all books. And even when they write something worthwhile they twist it and corrupt it to the point where it would be better to do without such books, rather than having a thousand copies spreading falsehoods around the world.'

Margaret Atwood talks about her choice of hand-held tools here.

lundi 1 avril 2013

Plotin and San Antonio: a sweet antithesis

After a recent visit to the library with my daughters - who just love an afternoon spent hanging out with books - I came home with San Antonio and Pierre Hadot's book about Plotin, Plotin ou la simplicité du regard. I am quite happy with this combination of books by my bed. San Antonio is a 1950's wize-cracking old school French detective with a huge side-kick called Bérurier. The books are written in slang at an unstoppable pace with plots best described by the French word farfeleu (screwball or outrageous); they are also rather rude and terribly funny. San Antonio is the perfect accompaniment (or a sweet antithesis) to Hadot's dry and precise exploration of the works of the Roman philosopher Plotin. Hadot writes about philosophy in a pure understated style. He was much admired by Foucault and his work is mentioned in a great article here