walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

ahistoric past

p 20 of Freeman's _The Tyranny of E-Mail_:

"The printing press allowed a person to address a multitude without being there to say it to them (or copy it by hand). It took hundreds of years, however, for books to become widely accessible. And it took yet more time for those books and newspapers and letters to be shipped from one city or continent to the next."

So. It's really hard to know precisely what he is saying here. What is "printing press"? Is he talking about the thing in the late 15th century with the movable type? If so, it _did not_ take hundreds of years + yet more time for books and newspapers and letters to be shipped from one city to the next (heck, even from one continent to the next). "Widely accessible" is so subject to argument I'm not even going to tackle it, other than to say that as long as he's not a complete jackass and expecting illiterate people to have access to newspapers, he's wrong there, too.

It's okay to use the flowery language, and to whinge on about some current expectations about email response time and even spamming. That's fine. But I don't like it when the traditionalists can't even wrap their brain around the comparatively recent past. Also, that thing from Henry Adams? Just because no one had their hands on the controls at that moment didn't mean they weren't shoveling like crazy to keep that beast fed. Geez.

I knew I'd hate the writing style, but I bought it hoping he'd actually have an interesting argument. I'm not sure I'll survive long enough to dig it out from under this manure.

ETA: In Freeman's world, Sweden's literacy rate went to 100% within a hundred years of launching a must-be-able-to-read-the-Bible campaign. Never mind that at the moment. "The decline of illiteracy in England was equally sharp but took much longer." It may have been as great, but _by definition_ it was not as sharp. One of your axes is (il)literacy and the other is time. And "sharp" describes the slope of the line. "Great" would have worked. I might have tolerated "dramatic". But not "sharp".

In Freeman's world, Pony Express riders carried a "bow knife". What, because they needed something to cut their baguettes? Really? Bowie knife, maybe. Sheath knife, more properly.

I feel like if I'm living in a world in which the editor of Granta writes a book published by Scribner's with rookie errors like this surviving to meet me in the hardcover, I am not required to feel any sympathy for the complete death of dead wood books. Why should I? There's no win here.
Tags: not-a-book-review
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