October 2007

Arts & Letters

‘The Book is Dead: Long Live the Book’ by Sherman Young

By Chris Womersley

This is a tidy manifesto which argues that, in the same way news has become separated from newspapers, and radio programs (think podcasting) from the radio, there is no reason why literature cannot be disentangled from the object of the book. Even for those romantic souls for whom books are talismans, Sherman Young contends, the pleasure of reading is in the thoughts and emotions aroused by a work. Reading is not only a process in which the writer and reader meet, but one in which the reader enters into a conversation with everyone who has ever read the same story. Like any modern theorist, Young invents his own unwieldy word for this: internalactivity.

According to Young, the purchase of literary works (as opposed to “anti-books”, like celebrity biographies, self-help manuals and other marketing ventures) has always been a niche activity and one that - in an age of declining profits and of environmental concerns over paper use and polluting methods of book distribution - is unsustainable. The so-called Heavenly Library, with downloadable versions of everything written, would reintroduce to a wider population those writers who are now rarely stocked in bookshops, in the same way that downloadable music has boosted the flagging careers of near-forgotten musicians. Project Gutenberg already has an online catalogue of 20,000 free e-books whose copyright has expired, and a glance at its most downloaded authors would seem to bear this out: Mark Twain and L Frank Baum regularly bookend the top 20 of the nearly 100,000 daily downloads. Literature will live on in a different form, read on a device that is yet to be perfected.

Although his conclusions are hard to refute - it is perhaps a credit to Young, a lecturer in media at Macquarie University, that he makes them seem inevitable - sometimes his technophilia gets the better of him: yes, technically texting on a mobile is writing but, let’s face it, barely; and the assertion that writing is, thanks to the ease of uploading digital content, inseparable from publishing is enough to send a shiver through anyone who has stumbled across one of the internet’s countless semi-literate blogs.

Cover: October 2007

October 2007

From the front page

Rorts multiply

The PM is squarely in the frame over the sports rorts affair

Image from ‘Honey Boy’

Think less, feel more: ‘Honey Boy’

Shia LaBeouf’s disarming autobiographical film-as-therapy dissolves the line between cheap image reparation and authentic mea culpa

Image of L’Arlésienne [detail], by Pablo Picasso

‘Matisse & Picasso’: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Hanging works by the two masters together highlights their artistic rivalry and mutual influence

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison

A portrait of Scott Morrison

With the prime minister, what you see is what you get


In This Issue

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Billy Hughes & Woodrow Wilson

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Caveat emptor

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

The flatbed scanner of democracy

‘The Door’ by Margaret Atwood


More in Arts & Letters

Untitled (Pollo Frito), 1982, by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Stopped in the street: ‘Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines’

Early death meant the work of these renowned artists never fully emerged from ’80s New York subcultures

Image [detail] of Agency, by William Gibson

Days of future passed: William Gibson’s ‘Agency’

The cyberpunk pioneer’s latest novel continues his examination of the present from the perspective of a post-apocalyptic future

Image of Gordon Koang

The king in exile: Gordon Koang

The music of the South Sudanese star and former refugee offers solace and a plea for unity

Image from True History of the Kelly Gang

Kills, frills and Kelly aches: Justin Kurzel’s ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’

The Australian director brings a welcome sense of style to the unusually malleable story


More in Noted

Image of L’Arlésienne [detail], by Pablo Picasso

‘Matisse & Picasso’: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Hanging works by the two masters together highlights their artistic rivalry and mutual influence

Image of A Couple of Things Before the End, by Sean O'Beirne

‘A Couple of Things Before the End’ by Sean O’Beirne

The Australian author’s debut story collection confidently converts the linguistic detritus of our era into something of lasting value

Utagawa Yoshimori, The Tongue-cut Sparrow [detail]

‘Japan supernatural’

The Art Gallery of NSW’s examination of Japan’s centuries-long artistic traditions depicting the spirit world and the macabre

Cover of ‘The Topeka School’

‘The Topeka School’ by Ben Lerner

The American author’s latest novel canvasses the seething hate speech of the burgeoning alt-right and white-boy rap battles in the Midwest


Read on

Image from ‘Honey Boy’

Think less, feel more: ‘Honey Boy’

Shia LaBeouf’s disarming autobiographical film-as-therapy dissolves the line between cheap image reparation and authentic mea culpa

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison

A portrait of Scott Morrison

With the prime minister, what you see is what you get

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt

COVID-19’s long shadow

The virus exposes the increasing difficulty of Australia’s balancing act between China and the US

Image from ‘The Doctor’

The Doctor’s dilemma

Director Robert Icke on rewriting the classic Austrian play to explore contemporary moral conundrums


×
×