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?

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The author is dead. And so are her characters, it would seem.

May 2, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Posted in books, debate | Leave a comment
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You’d have to be a philistine, agoraphobic or illiterate not to have noticed the rise in vampire fiction these past few years.  Those of you who do read (and I’m not counting Heat magazine, though I know you love it, Greg and Janie) or have the pleasure to work in a bookshop will know that the lady who started the trend goes by the name of Stephanie Meyer.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, I’m an English graduate, and am therefore used to sucking the life out of literature until it ceases to mean anything ( I can’t believe people actually get paid to teach people to do this).  Yes, I enjoy this, and I also believes that sometimes dissecting a text brings you more pleasure from it.  But I also think that there is nothing better than reading a book purely to enjoy it.

That’s why those journalists and any other people (usually those who have to read a newspaper to find an opinion) who write that Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight tetralogy is merely a vessel for her Mormon beliefs are missing the point.  Alright, perhaps I am, too: if journalists only ever wrote about how much they’d enjoyed a book, there wouldn’t be much point in reading their work.  What I’m saying is, think like Barthes.  Think the author is dead.  Suspend your belief when reading about Bella and Edward, and submerge yourself in the mythology that there really are vampires in smalltown America (vegetarian ones at that).  Stop seeing the fact that the young lovers take so long to sleep together as a metaphor for the preservation of virginity, or the large Cullen clan as representative of the typical Mormon family.  Does it really matter who wrote it?  Like it or don’t like it: don’t ruin what is supposed to be a leisure activity with analysis.  Because I hate to break it to all you other English graduates, but not everything has to mean something.

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