Digital Barbarism (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
The seesaw of Mark Helprin’s title and subtitle, Digital Barbarism: A Writer’s Manifesto has a colon as fulcrum, the title encapsulating what he sees as the nature and tone of the age, the subtitle embodying his reaction and resistance. For Helprin, the weightier becomes the digital zeitgeist of immediacy, collaborative endeavor, and reliance on the image, the more necessary become the humanistic qualities of leisurely organic growth, individual effort, and memory, especially memory of words. All these qualities are to be based on knowledge of and respect for the slowly accumulating achievements of the human past, and all, according to the author, are kicking hopelessly in the air in this cultural moment.
Helprin begins with two illustrative vignettes, the first imagining the life of a Californian of 2028, the “director of a small firm that supplies algorithms for the detection of damage in and the restoration of molecular memories in organic computation.” This man’s work is performed exclusively through the management of data links. Outside work, his relationship with his wife is temporarily fraught: during their last amatory encounter he had imposed upon her body in virtual sex not the appearance of a porn star but that of a former girlfriend. He jets out to see her in Alaska, where she is now on vacation, taking with him a “slim leather-bound portfolio” by means of which he can access everything ever printed or logged, including...
(The entire section is 1875 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
American Conservative 8, no. 12 (September 1, 2009): 45-46.
Library Journal 134, no. 9 (May 15, 2009): 87.
National Review 61, no. 13 (July 20, 2009): 46-48.
The New York Times, May 19, 2009, p. C6.
The New York Times Book Review, June 21, 2009, p. 13.
The Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2009, p. A15.
(The entire section is 36 words.)