Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gutenberg Elegies, Sven Birkerts

Dense books take time to read so I've been working on Sven Birkerts' Gutenberg Elegiess for a week or more. To greatly simplify: he bemoans what seems a cultural change for the worse, i.e., serious literature has become so marginalized that it has no real cultural influence anymore, in contrast to, say in the 19th century and first half of the 20th. He makes a good case and I agree that we as a culture are and will in the future be poorer because we are overloaded with information and entertainment but are not challenged, and rarely challenge ourselves, to look deeply at ourselves or our cultures. And we certainly do not go to serious literature for insight.

Two things came to mind when I closed the book: I'm tardy in reading it, for it was published several years ago and probably written about 10 years ago. He emphasizes the digital takeover but he wrote before cell phones, iPods, internet social networks -- all of which have been electronic kudzu burying, choking and cloaking many people's individuality and stifling thought.

But, to counter some of the fear and trembling Birkerts inspires there is a movement towards meditation and inwardness. I see it most promisingly in the Buddhist varieties but there are Christian groups as well that truly try to look beneath superficiality of every day life. It's far from a majority but it is a growing movement. Serious writing of all sorts is very marginalize, but it's not dead but the voices are difficult to hear in the cacophony.

1 comment:

Jonas said...

I like the way you think.