Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Great Internet Bookburning Panel

The Great Internet Bookburning Panel
Peter Plate, Ethan Watters, Brenda Knight, Alan Kaufman, Herbert Gold
Books Inc. in the Opera Plaza
Fri, 09/18/2009 - 7:00pm

The Books Inc. in Opera Plaza hosted this provocatively-titled panel discussion with local authors & publishers, all of them decrying the decline of a book-centered, literary culture. The Internet & Google were the big enemies here. The panel was prejudiced & condescending. Herbert Gold quipped, "The computer is a really useful tool. I wish I had one." Peter Plate correlated the rise of texting with the fall of teenagers' vocabularies. Brenda Knight admitted that she wouldn't hire someone who played MMORPGs, because they wouldn't be able to do the things expected of them. I disagreed with everything the panelists said, & I found the discussion absolutely engaging.

There seems to be a lot of fear mixed with a nostalgia for a golden age of books. Herbert Gold regrets that authors are no longer rock stars, as Norman Mailer was in his day. A member of the audience with a Scotts accent pointed out the many advantages of the book as an object, delightedly recounting how he once tore the pages out of a book & stuffed them in his mouth to treat a toothache.

A big thank you to Books Inc. for presenting something so thought-provoking that wasn't just some author hawking a new book. The event was attended by about 25 people plus one occasionally restless dog.


Stephen Smoliar said...

I am amused that, while these panelists were indulging in their hyperboles, I was off reviewing a physical world
piano recital
for my Internet platform. I can see how this event could have been engaging, but that does not necessarily make it informative. If Norman Mailer was a "rock star" (which some would find debatable), it has less to do with his skill as a writer and almost everything to do with his capacity for self-promotion. This would make him a significant harbinger of the Internet Age that so bothers these panelists, since the Internet Age is one in which authors can only survive through self-promotion, as I have discussed on one of my own
blog posts
. Had I not been enjoying the piano music, I suspect that the figure at this event I would have found most engaging to be the dog!

Axel Feldheim said...

Not informative? I found it quite informative to learn that one can use the pages of a book to treat toothache. & while self-promotional does seem to be rampant on the Internet, I for one shrink at the thought of engaging in shameless self-promotion.