Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Peak Book

Will Self:

The above leads me to suspect that we indeed may have passed that numinous — but for all that, real — point known as "peak book". Might this mean that the ever-expanding and ever-deranging gap between what is written and what is read may be beginning to narrow at last? Don't be ridiculous! The web has put paid to that — all those petabytes, all those pages! If the consciousness of unread books was bad enough, what about the consciousness of unread web pages?

It all puts me in mind of the Cha'an meditation illness: an incontinent recall of Buddhist texts that is the symptom of a Zen pupil's overstrained psyche, and which can only be rectified by his master hitting him on the head with a stick. Otherwise, the texts proliferate across his visual field, while the meaning of every word is instantly grasped by him. At first, there are just texts the pupil knows, but soon enough these are joined by others he has only heard of — yet these, too, are comprehended in their entirety.

There is worse to come, as flying from all angles wing still more texts that the pupil is compelled to include in his screaming wits — texts he has never heard of at all, texts he didn't know could exist, texts written by alien civilisations, texts doodled on the Etch a Sketch of God by archangels peaking on acid! No stick is big enough to beat this pupil — Humanity. So the maddening and delusory library expands, while the real and useful one is shut down.


  • In 2003 I went to a Kodak Super16 seminar. The one thing I remember was Oscar nominated producer Victor Nunez, commenting on the rise of digital acquisision in independent filmmaking, "It's getting to be an I'll watch your movie if you watch mine world."

    The new Xerox campaign has me remembering a Xerox campaign promoting "on demand" printing. In the manner of "The Paper Chase" the stodgy old professor informs his class that most of them will not get published. Then a young turk pipes up telling him that with Xerox's new gizmo "everyone can get published."

    Be careful what you wish for, may you live in interesting times and all the other caveats and cliches apply.

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