The Glass Book and the Last Book

In this New Statesman essay, John Sutherland moves from the faux-Victorian fantasy-folderol of G. W. Dahlquist's The Glass Book of the Dream Eaters (which I found unreadable) to the alarms raised by Bibliotheque national president Jean-Noe Jeanneney in Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: Google's (so far successful, so far very rapid) attempt to digitalize 15 million books will inevitably lead to the decline of languages like French.

More important than the typically Gallic complaint about our American digital-dominance are M. Jeanneney's points about what the largest book marketing project ever undertaken will mean to books and reading in general: the "de-individuation" of books (digitally, they'll all be alike -- whereas you actually do judge books by their covers, and their sizes, and their typefaces), the bulk data processing that reading is becoming (more data, less discrimination) and the Americanization of culture (our prejudices, our tastes, our allegiance to free market values over everything else).

In this context, The Glass Book, Mr. Dalquist's ornate but empty pastiche, figures as nostalgia -- but also, Mr. Sutherland contends, as an ingenious, risky leap forward. Despite the cheat ending, the essay is thought-provoking.

A tip of the hat to Bill for prodding me into reading it.

December 3, 2006 9:46 AM |



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