Friday, May 7, 2010

The Future of Reading

One of my favorite new blogs that I read daily is Kindle Review. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I am in love with my Kindle and in love with books. Today there was a post on the future of reading -- or more accurately the future of books. (I don't think reading is going anywhere, books appear to be in a state of flux however.)

The post raised a couple of questions, especially when it was combined with my wife's post about literature yesterday. So here are a couple of questions and my random musings on them.

1. What is literature?

Harold Bloom, the literary critic, sees the literary tradition as agon -- a conflict or contest of artistic style and morals. (Agon is the same root as agony, which seems completely applicable to the writer's craft.) Being the male combative that likes rugby and the law, this theory of literature appeals to me greatly. Obviously literature is a game and as a writer it is fun to play the game. The problem is that there are no rules -- or at least you need to pick the literary game you want to play. Literary fiction is a different game than writing mystery novels.

Before you answer the question as to what is literature, you must look to see that you are comparing tradition to tradition.

2. Will books become more than words on a page?

No -- and yes. No, because books are words on a page. Yes --think David Foster Wallace. His books become words on different pages through an old technology, footnotes. eBook technology is going to open up artistic possibilities to authors that have been tried before, but the tools weren't really there until now -- split narrative streams, collage, asides, merging of various texts/authors, alternate endings and whatever an artistic mind can come up with to use the brush strokes of eBooks and digital technology. Depending on what literary tradition forms around these uses of technology, then yes, books will become more than words on a page, but it won't replace the century old progression of other literary traditions. This is an addition, not a subtraction.

3. Time to go to work

The problem with books is not the form, but the quality.

1 comment:

PurpleWorm said... my comment on your wife's blog...Ya'll Rock!!!
Love both of ya and your thoughts!