There has always been, since the first painted palm was pressed to a cave wall, a desire to create a tangible impression of our thoughts. I’m beginning to think of blogs as paintings on our walls. If these are to be our artefacts, if the technology doesn’t become so obsolete that no one remembers how to extract data from it, then bring it on.
Thoughts as artefact. Imagine if we could press a palm against a cave painting and understand how the painter felt, what they were actually thinking. I know blogs aren’t always brilliant or literary in a traditional sense, but we are making them by the million and quite often loving it. What could be more interesting than browsing the unfiltered thoughts of a generation as well as the crafted books and print journals? Blogs add a layer, they don’t take one away.
It seems to me that a lot of people are saying print isn’t dying, its just becoming more beautiful. I call bullshit. I enjoy reading those mass-produced orange paperbacks as much as the rest of the population buying them by the armload, but I sure as hell don’t enjoy displaying them in my home.
Publishing has always been about technology. In the beginning, technology was simple: paper, ink, quill. When presses came along it changed the game and what a fucking gift it was. We have never looked back. Let’s not stop and stick in the mud now just because the game is beginning to change once again.
Let’s look at the game for a moment. Though the novel began as entertainment, it grew into a form so powerful we are fighting to keep it. I don’t believe the novel will die but I do believe the blog will rise to take a place quite near it. Good blogs are being written, coming in waves, the best rising into shining mackerel-backed crests, the poor ones remaining flat and blue, but you don’t have to read them.
If you want to, you can revel in the glorious mixed bag of everything. Now is a time when we can read what we want, how we want and then change our minds and go back again in half an hour.
If you’re a hard-backed literary purist, then I’m the worst offender there is. I write a blog and use a pseudonym – it’s a gossip channel from an imagined persona to the inattentive masses – and I also write long form; a traditional, likely-to-be-rejected-by-the-publishers novel. To round it out a little I also write for an online music journal and edit a print magazine.
Some days I want to be savage and remove box after box of books from my crowded house. I imagine what it might feel like to live in a genuinely clutter-free home. How easy it would be to move house the next time a landlord or lady decides to kick me out. The next day I want to raise the ceilings and pave the walls with beautiful tomes and this right here might be the trouble. Collectively, we don’t know what we want; we imagine one thing incompletely and then try to imagine it again, and end up somewhere else.
People seem obsessed with the physicality of books; caressing them, holding them, dropping them, bathing with them. Like taking a new lover, you might need to drop a guiding hand down once in a while until your body develops a feel for it but sooner or later it becomes second nature.
We’re gestating something here, preparing to birth a new beast. E-books could turn out to be fly, ointment or minotaur, but then again they might not. On my desk today, I have a pile of yellowing paperbacks, a smartphone, a laptop, two newspapers, three magazines, an e-reader, an mp3 player, a turntable, at least three notebooks and various pens and pencils. I’ve got choices.
Let’s stop predicting for a moment and take a photograph of now. If this is the dying light of the print era then let it shine on me. Right now, today, I can get it however I want it and that’s fucking great. Bring on the changes. I’ll take all the kinds of books you’ve got because, like so many people, my first and enduring love is reading somebody else’s words.