Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Calm Down Doris

Shouting at the radio news is one of my many bad habits. Getting into a spluttering rage against a Radio 4 arts programme is a new development of my affliction. The cause of this deterioration in my evening mental state was Doris Lessing and her comments on how the Internet is destroying reading. First voiced in her interview with the Observer and repeated in her Nobel acceptance speech, the comments were rolled out again with little criticism. Perhaps the interviewer rolled over because of her Nobel Laureate status. Nonetheless this conclusion is absolute bunkum and a case of sloppy not sharp thinking. The Internet and reading are not mutually exclusive. Did Amazon build its business case on how Internet shopping would kill off the reading of books? Neither is the Internet intrinsically inane. Certainly there's lots of rubbish on online but is the Internet any more inane than a Barbara Cartland novel, any page of Mein Kampf or even a little bit of Peter Rabbit? So a little more balance please Doris before you wobble off your high perch

Probably what Lessing means is we aren't reading enough of what she regards as good books or perhaps more accurately her books. This actually is a pre-Internet argument with past book killers comic books or television or penny dreadfuls or Laurel and Hardy movies or cave paintings or whatever competing visual media loved by the masses got superior intellectuals in a froth.

Ironically enough for someone who professes loathing of the medium, there's byte loads of online coverage. And, to be perfectly honest, my reluctance to read one of her allegedly depressing scifi novels is ever so slightly reduced by curiousity to see if what she writes is as inane as the Internet.

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