Archive | December, 2007

How Reading Is Being Reimagined an essay by Matthew Kirschenbaum

Matthew Kirschenbaum posted early this month a lucid response to the hysteria around the lowering literacy rates in the United States. While the To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence and the initial report 2004 Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in Americapoint to a decline in literacy, or at least the kind of mass literacy as practiced by a large, compulsary education centered around the bound book, Kirschen draws out some interesting conflicts in this assumption — and too points to the fact that Western Culture (with caps) was not born with mass literacy and nor will it die without it. These reports merely indicate there is a change in what it means to be literate, a change that has already been estatically hailed by the likes of Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong: a collective, externalized nervous system, a hot, connected culture.

Two choice bits from Kirschenbaum’s essay:

  • Walk into your favorite coffee shop and watch the people in front of their screens. Rather than bug-eyed, frenzied jittering, you are more likely to see calm, meditative engagement — and hear the occasional click of fingers on keyboards as the readers write.
  • When I read [How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read] (well, most of it), the book provoked the most intense author envy I have ever felt — not because I too secretly enjoy perpetuating literary frauds, but because Bayard speaks to a dilemma that will be familiar to every literate person: namely, that there are far more books in the world (50 million or 60 million by the estimates I’ve seen) than any of us will ever have time to read. Reading, Bayard says, is as much about mastering a system of relationships among texts and ideas as it is about reading any one text in great depth.

The whole essay can be found here. Also, Kirschenbaum has just published a book named Mechanisms, which examines new media and electronic writing against the textual and technological primitives that govern writing, inscription, and textual transmission in all media: erasure, variability, repeatability, and survivability.

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Rebecca Brown regrets the limited shelf space of brick and mortar bookstores. Stacey Levine regrets that vast swaths of a nation that can’t appreciate something as fine and subtle as a classic novel. Frances McCue regrets not finishing a stack of fan letters to writers she likes. Ryan Boudinot regrets not telling a certain person to go fuck herself. In comparison, my regrets, are regretfully, confessional and petty.Soon it will be a new year and I can relegate 2007 to the musty bins of nostalgia. I will wonder about photographs taken this year, “and when was that?”

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Tiger in a LifeBoat ™ with music by Christopher Chaplin

Tiger in a LifeBoat Matt Briggs Christopher ChaplinI posted an MP3 of my reading to MacJams, a music community, and Christopher Chaplin edited and provided music. I think it turned out pretty well. You can hear the piece, comment, vote, or what have you, here, if you like.

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Doug Nufer’s X-Mas Card to the Wor(l)d (via Subtext)

Doug Nufer read at the SubText Reading Series this past year, and it has been posted: Merry Christmas.

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Some Lit links and events this week (12/10/2007)

Profile of Whatcom Poetry Series

A profile of Jim Bertolino and the Whatcom Poetry Series by Michelle Nolan appeared recently in the Bellingham Herald.

Free Range Words

Melanie Noel, Jared Leising, and Bret Fetzer

Thursday Dec 13 at 7:00 PM at Tougo Coffee, 1410 18th Ave. at Union in the Central District. Free.

Molly Tenanbaum at Elliott Bay

Molly Tenenbaum will be reading from her new book Now (Bear Star), joined by Portland poet Kate Gray, also reading from her recent book.

Thursday, Dec 13, 7:30 pm at the Elliott Bay Book Company. Free.

S.A.M. Poetry Night Series

Vis-a-Vis Society with a site-specific, interactive (not-scary), multi-media performance by the Vis-a-Vis Society, and readings by poets Catherine Wing and Cody Walker. The S.A.M. Poetry Night Series offers readings and performances
inspired by specific rooms in the museum’s collection and current S.A.M. exhibitions.

Thursday, Dec. 13, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. (but please come a little early to fill out a survey) Seattle Art Museum – South Hall. Free.

Robert Mittenthal at Apostrophe

Jurg Hock (Dance), Robert Mittenthal (poetry), and Robert Pedersen (music – electronics) will perform at Apostrophe. Apostrophe is a monthly series presenting three solo artists in one hour, testing for vistas within the camera obscura. Without theme or intermission, a dancer, musician and poet present their work, posing questions about the compositional frame (page, body, breath, instrument, floor, room) and how it shapes imagination and space. Co-presented by gallery 1412 and Seattle Improvised Music. Curated by Beth Graczyk, Gust Burns and Melanie Noel.

Saturday, Dec 15, 2007 8 p.m. gallery 1412 [1412 18th Avenue (at Union Street)] $5-15 sliding scale

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Books as Thought; Books as Business

The Future of Reading at

When someone buys a book, they are also buying the right to resell that book, to loan it out, or to even give it away if they want. Everyone understands this. — Jeff Bezos, Open letter to Author’s Guild, 2002

You may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party, and you may not remove any proprietary notices or labels on the Digital Content. In addition, you may not, and you will not encourage, assist or authorize any other person to, bypass, modify, defeat or circumvent security features that protect the Digital Content. — Amazon, Kindle Terms of Service, 2007

The Future of Reading is a great mash-up of the various efforts (and their implications) in making books business digitial (with the implication of central control, aka Winston Smith’s job of updating the historical record to support contemporary political decisions).

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