Tuesday, June 05, 2007

reviews: Nilsen and Short History

I've just finished Don't Go Where I Can't Follow, by Anders Nilsen. I love the reprinting of original writing, unmediated and unedited (other than the scribbles), that give the sense of immediacy, of the truthfulness of the moment. I'm amazed that Anders can share such a personal experience, but he points out at the end that "This story is, obviously, very personal, but ultimately I think it isn't exclusive. It feels incredibly particular to me, still, but it's just love and loss. And everyone, for better or worse, can relate to that." He relates his story better than most could, through a beautiful collection of writings, photographs, and drawings.

On another note, Warren Chappell ends "A Short History of the Printed Word" with a McLuhan-esque prophecy, saying:

In 1930, Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote that the mass-man took the civilization into which he was born as a matter of course, "as spontaneous and self-producing as Nature." This, claimed Ortega, made a primitive of him, with civilization his forest. It is a timely concept, of man as a consumer rather than as one involved and at the service of the base cultural values of his time. It is difficult to perceive any great literary sensitivity coming as the result of the flood of print that has turned reading into a process of gulping rather than savoring.

This was published in 1970, long before Wikipedia and blogs. Gulp.


Cody G. said...

Ah! I just realized those are your hands!! (I read the type you're setting... no way anybody else is printing that material.)

I also recently noticed that Short History is referenced several times in the tome "Typecasting: On the Arts and Sciences of Human Inequality." At one point in Western history, literacy was a measure of social worth, so the printed word was very important in terms of social hierarchy. (It may also help explain the almost disappeared disdain for comics. Communication through images was heathen!)

Jessica White said...

ohh, it makes sense... like the images in the stained glass windows of the churches - they were there to explain the biblical stories for the illiterate, common folk.

this was something the american colonists were intent on changing in the new world - literacy was so important to the settlers that the literacy rate in new england in the 1600s was something like 90% - including women and children. they wanted everyone to be able to read the bible for themselves, rather than depending on an intermediary to explain it to them.

Cody G. said...

And, this is when public education was born in the U.S., er, colonies.