This has nothing to do with the assertion that the book is counter-technology, but that the book is a technology so pervasive, so frequently iterated and innovated upon, so worn and polished by centuries of human contact, that it reaches the status of Nature.
Barrier walls are punctuated by screen windows, offering visual – but not physical – connections through four or five layers of space.
He loved most of all art that danced on an edge between manifest accomplishment and audacity, where a painter managed to bring his or her sheer talent to bear upon the world—and then made the inadequacy of talent alone to bear adequate witness to the world manifest, too.
We asked them “If this project goes wrong, what’s the most likely thing we would have done to make it go that way?”
A German diarist in 1944, forced to use candles instead of lightbulbs during nightly air raids, was struck by the difference. “We have noticed,” he wrote, “in the ‘weaker’ light of the candle, objects have a different, a much more marked profile — it gives them a quality of ‘reality.’” This quality, he continued, “is lost in electric light: objects (seemingly) appear much more clearly, but in reality it flattens them. Electric light imparts too much brightness and thus things lose body, outline, substance — in short, their essence.”
Literature can accommodate nostalgia, but only as a houseguest; if nostalgia becomes the landlord, architect and psychoanalyst, literature will have to evict itself. ■
What we require most in America today are bad soldiers: stubborn, independent-minded men and women, reluctant to give orders and loath to receive them, loyal not to authority, nor to any specific company or team, but to the ideals of open debate, equality, honesty, and fairness.
As soon as one becomes of oneself and begins to control how one acts, one is calculating, disguising, living twice or more within one identity. One is a hypocrite: one says one thing and does another. One contains multitudes. That the contemporary world criminalizes what all humans share, of course, means only that it is precisely like the ancient world; the moral values of a culture don’t reflect the culture as it is but as it wishes to be, and the sins it prosecutes are those it perceives as threatening infections.
To put that another way: there already is one such oracle out there, namely the physical world. It tells us the result of any possible experiment if we ask it in the right language (i.e. if we do the experiment), though in some cases it is impractical for us to ‘enter a description of the experiment in the required form’ (i.e. to build and operate the apparatus). But it provides no explanations. The universe is an oracle to which we can submit any properly-phrased question and receive an answer in the form of uninterpreted data.
Every time I opened my daughter's eyes, tar came out. I asked her to open her eyes. Tar came out. I couldn't completely clean her up with this much water. So I licked my daughter's eyes with my tongue."
It’s true that our owning the object—War and Peace or Moby Dick—and organizing these and other classics according to chronology and nation of origin will give us an illusion of control: as if we had now “acquired” and “digested” and “placed” a piece of culture. Perhaps that is what people are attached to. But in fact we all know that once the sequence of words is over and the book closed what... actually remains in our possession is very difficult, wonderfully difficult to pin down, a richness (or sometimes irritation) that has nothing to do with the heavy block of paper on our shelves.
To put a novel down before the end, then, is simply to acknowledge that for me its shape, its aesthetic quality, is in the weave of the plot and, with the best novels, in the meshing of the writing style with that weave. Style and plot, overall vision and local detail, fascinate together, in a perfect tangle.
With empathy comes self-awareness, of course. By discovering affinities between ourselves and characters we never imagined we'd be able to comprehend (like the accused murderer Dimitri Karamazov), we better understand who we are personally and politically; what we want to change; what we care about defending.
In ancient times, in faraway Izumo on the coast of the Sea of Japan, there lived a fearful eight-headed serpent, the Orochi. He ravaged the mountains and valleys far and wide, devouring the daughters of local villagers, and only when the god Susano-o vanquished him did peace come. Inside the Orochi, Susano-o found the sacred sword that still ranks as one of the three imperial treasures; nearby was... founded Izumo Shrine, Japan's oldest. Since that time, the land of Izumo has been holy, so much so that the traditional name for the month of October is Kannazuki (the month without gods), because it is believed that in that month all the gods of Japan leave their native places and gather at Izumo.
To hold those two ideas in your head as many in Japan do — to see that life means a joyful participation in a world of sorrows, and that suffering is not the same as unhappiness — is one of the singular blessings this seasoned country still has to offer.
But our understanding of sound will always be limited by our perception of it. We will never experience the ultrasonic cries of insects, lizards or bats without distorting them. Decibels are self-deception. Bell Telephone Laboratories conjured them to measure loudness in the 1920s (the “bel” honors the company’s eponymous founder), but they represent volume as our ears register it, and the louder a sound is, the less of it we actually take in.