Oh No, Love, You’re Not Alone

May 11, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Posted in Friendship, internet, Loneliness | 6 Comments
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In this week’s Grazia, Bibi Lynch poses the question, ‘Have we become Generation Lonely?’. Or, as I prefer to put it, are we spending most our lives living in J D Salinger’s paradise?*

For I believe that J D Salinger would have loved how today’s world is enabling mankind to be ever more reclusive. He’d have loved internet shopping and online banking, and relished the fact that he need never leave his house again. Although conversely, I am sure he would have hated how much, arguably, writers need to promote themselves in today’s increasingly self-promoting society. Unlike Dickens, whom I’m sure would have been all over Twitter and Facebook.

I digress, however. Unlike Salinger, Lynch believes it’s time to ‘create actual – not virtual – relationships’. I certainly agree with her that, were we to keep it purely for housekeeping, the internet would be phenomenally useful. Yet she makes a good point when she says that those who think obsessive Twittering and Facebook stalking counts as a social life are ‘[D]elusional’.

But here’s the thing: unlike Miss Lynch, who, as a writer, may well while away a whole day having not ‘uttered a single word out loud’, as a bookseller, all I DO is talk. I talk on the till, I talk to recommend, I talk about books to my colleagues (obviously, sometimes I have to do dull officy things, but you get the picture). So when I get home, to my lovely little house which I have all to myself three evenings a week, I don’t particularly want to have any real human contact, thanks. Sure, I see friends a few times a week, and I enjoy their company. But I wouldn’t want it every night. If you know me (and I suppose by that I mean ‘in reality), you’ll know that I can be positively misanthropic at the best of times: I have been known to avoid acquaintances in the town as I can’t stand small talk.

So thank you, Bibi, for your concern that I may be part of ‘Generation Delusional Lonely’. But if I wish to spend my evening in the company of strangers, after a day filled with real human contact, then I’m sure it won’t make me any more lonely than those who frantically fill their diaries with dinners and dates for fear of being alone. Aren’t they, in fact, the deluded and lonely ones?

*Couldn’t resist the Coolio reference: I’ve had a soft spot for him ever since I drunkenly asked him, outside Warwick Student Union, if he wanted to come to Tesco to buy wine.

I’m with you on the printed word, Jonathan Franzen

February 6, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Posted in books, Ebooks | 1 Comment
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It’s probably snobbery, to be honest, which makes me prefer the book to the ebook.  For me, the desire to possess the very newest form of technology (i.e. the Kindle, in this case) strikes me as a petit bourgeois, Del Boy desire, and yet I fully acknowledge that this is an unattractive and hypocritical point of view, as I am lying here writing this on my IPhone. But I’ve never understood parents who allow their children to have televisions in their room from a very young age, nor my brother-in-law’s desire to own as many giant plasma screens as possible.  I’m positive I could live without a television, and indeed did so when I lived in Berlin for a year.

But I digress.  Like Henry Porter in the Observer, I don’t think that ‘the printed word [is] the guardian of all democratic values’.  It’s an aesthetic appreciation of the printed book which makes me value it far more than I ever would an ebook ( even the word itself kills a little something in me).  But it is precisely this widespread aesthetic appreciation of the hard copy which has seen vinyl remain so popular.  After all, there is nothing quite like the crackle at the beginning of a song played on 12″, or the turn of a page of a book.  And would it have had the same effect if my English teacher at Eton had hurled his Kindle across the room instead of a paperback, when he demonstrated Roland Barthes’ ‘author is dead’ theory?

I think that I might be in love….

January 15, 2012 at 6:26 am | Posted in love, technology | 1 Comment
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….with my IPhone. I am regarding it as a child would a very beautiful, shiny new bike.  I am looking at him and I cannot believe the things he can do (Nobody does it better….).  I am in awe of his sleek edges, his ironically mechanical sound when I type, his QWERTY keyboard, his text messages wittily displayed in speech bubbles in the manner of a graphic novel.  And I would rather play with him than sleep the soundest sleep. Something very strange is happening to me.

The Luddite relents….

January 14, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Posted in books, capitalism, film, men, women, work | 1 Comment
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Have you seen Metropolis? No? Well, what are you waiting for? It is one of the greatest cinematic achievements known to mankind; sadly, the version Fritz Lang wanted is lost, leaving us with only a fragment of his vision.

Anyway, Metropolis is a truly beautiful film which shows what happens when society becomes increasingly industrialised. There are two characters called Maria in the film: one is angelic and endeavours to save her fellow humans from the horrors of the Heart Machine, and the other is a devilish and sexy mechanical Maria, engineered to incite the workers to rebel, whilst encouraging them to remain at the mercy of their dangerous, industrial surroundings.  Well, my new IPhone has turned me into the latter, and to hell with it (gentlemen, I would never trust an angelic lady: cinematic studies have proven that they usually have teeth in unmentionable places. More on that subject later).  What I mean to say is, is that I am finally embracing technology and joining the twenty-first century. I will never ever own a Kindle and will continue to fight to preserve the book; I will never worship at the Apple shrine or give a toss about Facebook again (cue one giant collective sigh of relief). But I shall continue to develop a passion for computer shortcuts, and the quirks of the somewhat antiquated Phoenix system. I shall continue to enjoy the thrill of seeing just how quickly I can type an email or text. I may never be a technophile, but I’ll certainly never be a technophobe again.

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