The evolution of writing onto the internet Part 1 of 2

I first published this twelve years ago. [1]. I have lightly edited it. Take a journey back in time with me. It is in two parts because, ironically, it is too long for my modern theme. Constraints. I mention that below.

It’s 0226. At least, it was when I started writing. At 0429 I realized I had more to read before breakfast. I got back to writing at 0504. (I’ve been using military time more and more. A symptom of the evolution toward 24-hour culture. What will this do to our natural rhythms of sleep and wakefulness? I’m the wrong person to ask. I have narcolepsy. No cataplexy, hallucinations, or sleep paralysis, thank God. Just a blurring of wakefulness, unconsciousness and REM sleep. Doesn’t explain the insomnia. In this case, my knowledge of my own sleep patterns leads me to conclude I couldn’t sleep because of my anticipation of my full agenda today: Discussing Early Christians Speak over breakfast with the men of StGAC, training for county GOP (unpaid) election work, then meeting fellow volunteers for the campaign to re-elect Amy Stephens for State House District 19. Then again, I would like to think that The Holy Spirit woke me up because I had work to do. Writing is work. To work is to pray. Therefore, by writing, I pray. And the purpose of prayer is to seek unity with the Creator of the Universe—thank you, Fr. Scott. But that’s enough theology for now.)

I think Larry Sanger is onto something. I red Part 1 of his blog series, “How Not to Use the Internet.” I agree: it’s a problem that the internet distracts us. And I am also reading Charles Murray’s piece in the New Criterion, “Future tense, IX: Out of the wilderness.” (Thank you, Arts & Letters Daily for the teaser, “What conditions give rise to great artistic achievements? Wealth, urban centers, belief in God. Wait: What? Secularism is incompatible with creativity…”) In fact, Part 2 of Larry’s piece (Part 1 of which I finished uninterrupted—1737 words according to Microsoft Word), is sitting right ahead of Murray’s piece in my Instapaper folder. (I’m not reading my collection in sequence. And, by the way, Instapaper totally rocks! I’m reading that folder offline in my Kindle app as a .mobi “magazine.”) His piece is 5592 words and I’m 1794 words into it. Coincidence, I don’t think so.

When I red Murray’s sentence, “In literature, the organizing structure that created an eruption of great work starting in the late eighteenth century was overwhelmingly dominated by a new principle: the modern novel,” I was hooked. Who has time for novels anymore? Well, I do. Sort of. I recently became aware of Thomas Pynchon’s existence. It seems he wrote an award-winning postmodern novel. Murray assumes his readers know this. I haven’t red the first word of it, though. The book I’m focused most on is a pair of stories in one volume: Not Quite Dead Enough and Booby Trap by Rex Stout. This book is a milestone for me. I’ve red other long works electronically. In the 90’s I had an IBM PC-XT that ran on two AA batteries and fit in the palm of my hand. I red The Imitation of Christ on it. I got through it, but it took much longer because it wasn’t very comfortable. I had to use some custom software to rotate the text into portrait mode, and the LCD contrast was not restful on the eyes, unlike a modern Kindle. I still haven’t finished Pride and Prejudice. I started it on an iPod Touch. I red a chapter or three in paperback, and I downloaded it to my NOOKcolor™. (That e-reader didn’t survive a fall from the floorboard of my car to the pavement. R.I.P.) It’s still sitting in my NOOK app library on my iPad, beckoning me. I don’t know how quickly I’ll finish it. But I fully intend to get through Stout’s nostalgic, light yet profound pair of stories on my iPad. They’re both contained in the first ebook I ever checked out from my library. (Thank you, Pikes Peak Library District, for inspiring me in 1979 with the idea that technology can make the humanities better!) I’ve already “renewed” it once (re-download after timebomb auto-delete). I have sixteen days left before I have to repeat that awkward yet tolerable (hey, what can one honestly expect for free?!) process. And so, for me, the novel is well underway toward being supplanted by electronic text.

Murray is also elaborating on music as art. That went digital before books, as we all know. My lovely and talented wife giddily shared her new acquisitions as we carpooled home yesterday evening: Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats.” (Oops. A tiny bit of her privacy just leaked onto the internet. Sorry, Sweetheart. Forgive me?) This was also a milestone. She paid $1.29 apiece. She said it was the first time she’d bought tracks since obtaining an iPhone. There was no easy way to confirm they’re MP3s during our trip, but I seem to remember that Apple raised their prices at the same time that they began selling the open format. I get my MP3s from Amazon for 23.26% less.

Continue reading Part 2


Tim Chambers @tbc