A collection of essays addressing the role of high technology in the literary arts that attempts to expand upon the dialogue initiated in The Gutenberg Elegies
, Birkert's book published at the dawn of Internet mania. Among the essays in Tolstoy's Dictaphone
, "Only Connect" by Lynne Sharon Schwartz considers our relationship with telephones, Daniel Mark Epstein writes about the charmingly archaic atmosphere of Baltimore's Peabody Library and Mark Slouga speaks of "the culture of distraction," arguing that electronic media are contributing to the loss of "the daily grinding of differences so necessary not only to the democratic process, but to individual growth."
From Publishers Weekly
As the information revolution explodes, will screens replace print, hypertext supplant narrative and corporate endeavors crowd out individual art? Will electronic media rot our minds, ruin our taste and alienate us from nature?or foster creativity and diversity? These 19 witty and impassioned essays explore the ever-changing dynamic between technology and the literary arts, updating C.P. Snow's Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution and the works of Marshall McLuhan. Of the seductive pull of our new toys and tools, Askold Melnyczuk cries, "Someone, tie me to the mast!". Other resisters are Paul West (who composes on a typewriter, nude) and Mark Slouka (who tells how he searched in nature for a rare slug, only to find it on television). However, optimists Carolyn Guyer and Carole Maso herald innovative forms of self-expression, and Wendy Lesser credits e-mail with reviving the personal letter. Other delights here are Daniel Mark Epstein's celebration of a great library, Jonathan Franzen's piece on material poverty and artistic riches and Lynne Sharon Schwartz's comic complaints about modern telephoning. Ultimately, these poets, novelists, editors, artists and teachers raise fundamental questions regarding values, and challenge us to discard the toxic in electronic fare and embrace the life-enhancing. As Ralph Lombreglia wisely observes, the source of our collective shallowness is us, not our technology. (Sept) FYI: Tolstoy's Dictaphone is the first in the new Graywolf Forum series aimed at eliciting essays from creative writers on relevant topics.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.