Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Crazy Talk

michaelberube.com is being guest blogged at the moment and, in a long post about writerly categories and Kurt Vonnegut, guest blogger Lance Mannion quotes from a book called A Scream Goes Through the House by Arnold Weinstein and lets it pass with a minimum of objection. Here's the quote:
"My view of art is quite at odds also with the electronic network that stamps our age, because the Internet culture, however capacious it might be, is also largely soulless and solipsistic---informational rathar than experiential---when contrastred with our engagement with art."
This strikes me as shortsighted crazy talk. It's logically shortsighted because the web is a changing thing, so even if it was, at present, perfectly, unarguably soulless, it would be foolish to assume it couldn't gain a soul, whatever that might mean. That's a minor point about inaccuracy.

My instinct tells me Mr. Weinstein is exhibiting an inclination to dislike something that is new and unfamiliar and from which he feels excluded. This is wild and unfair speculation, I know. But his words do seem clueless. They strike me as the equivalent of saying there's no good literature being made in the world when you only read English. But that's another logical point. I guess my real objection is that the difference between a story published on the Internet and a story printed in a book is not one that should be understood as limiting the beauty or meaning of the online version.

In place of the blanket dismissal, I would be much more interested in a discussion of the limits and possibilities of experience and human interaction mediated entirely by means of abstraction, ie words and photos on the Internet.

You could title the discussion, Did You Really Break Up If You Broke Up On Myspace?

I imagine there are teenagers out there who have sketched out the protocols pretty thoroughly.

But the quote above strikes a nerve with me because I'm interested in the implications of its anti-web sentiment in terms of literature. There's an endless amount of thinking a person could do on that subject, but I'll offer a small observation that I think casts some light on what the meaning of online literature. My sense is that the increasing aesthetic quality of web publishing will go along way towards enabling greater degrees of poetic experience to take place in the conduit running between our glowing screens and our fleshy illuminated heads.

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