Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Message from the Cave

Writing as an artform is relatively recent. Think of the caves at Lascaux. Painting has been around for 40,000 years. Writing, maybe 5,000. The novel has been with us for a shorter time, still.

Yet, it is our own experience, in our own minds that we think of as forever. I talk with people all the time who express their regret that electronic books are starting to edge out the printed kind. Printed books are all they’ve ever known, and they love them. There were probably some few readers of illuminated manuscripts who tut-tutted moveable type. And the Devil would surely have been behind the printing press, if Gutenberg had not wisely chosen the bible as his prototype.

Technology rolls along, picking up speed exponentially as it goes. Artists rarely use the walls of caves as their medium anymore. Writers are more likely to use a keyboard than a pencil.

Some persist in the old ways. I had an acquaintance a few decades back who longed to be a writer. He eschewed a typewriter and and used only pencils and yellow pads. He also believed that writing skills were innate and could not be taught. That belief probably hindered him more than the pencil. 

There are still writers, such as John Irving, who use a pencil and pad. There are some who dictate and have the whole thing transcribed. It is the words that are important, after all, not the technology

I urge readers to remember that. You may love the heft, the smell, the very idea of books. I do, too. But the words take you to another world, not the pages.

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