Doris Lessing is god

The great Doris Lessing's acceptance speech for this year's Nobel prize is now online at The Guardian, and you need to read it. Everyone you know needs to read it.

Frankly I've never seen a more powerful criticism of tech culture, or a more potent defense of book culture. I'm easily influenced anyway, as regular readers know, but good heavens. If ever something was likely to get me offline again and back into a paper notebook, it'd be this speech.

Key moments:
we never thought to ask, "How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by the internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?"
Not long ago, a friend in Zimbabwe told me about a village where the people had not eaten for three days, but they were still talking about books and how to get them, about education.
And I sit here blogging as a distraction from marking, when my nonfiction students have exposed their lives and faiths and weaknesses for me, and I lack the strength either to judge or to honour them as they deserve. Granted, I don't have the peace or the space or the silence that Lessing sees as essential for a writer's existence, but [insert curse here], why am I so ready to waste time rather than to claim a place in the world? What the -- and I use this word with great caution in this blog -- fuck?

UPDATE: For a rebuttal, it's well worth reading the reliably cogent Todd Swift, who offers this in reply to Lessing's complaint about blogs etc:
the enemy of great writing is not the web. It may, instead, be the mind-dulling latter stages of capitalism, which increasingly bamboozles us all. The Internet can oppose, as much as support, this ad-copy-world.


Biblio Reader said…
Oh, what a beautiful speech. What a beautiful, heartbreaking story.
richard said…
Just what I was thinking. Crushingly beautiful!
richard said…
If you haven't seen her respond to the news that she had won the Nobel in the first place, it's a nice character sketch. (She's climbing out of a cab and bringing her son home from the hospital, as he'd injured his arm somehow. He's holding an artichoke for some reason.)

She'd won a few prizes before, so she tells the assembled reporters, "This has been going on for 30 years, and one can't get more excited than one gets."
Biblio Reader said…
Ah, yes, I'd heard about her reaction, but I hadn't seen a clip of it. Priceless. "Oh Christ." You have to respect an author like that. :)
Looks like the perillous ills of the Internet is a hot subject these days. Read here Norm's response which I only partly disagree with:

I happen to think, based on a very dense Internet experience in the last 5 years, that "attachment to screen and radio" may well be "a consequence of stress, loneliness and fear.." and unlike Norm's assumption that it can offer consolation, it does not. It's like eating candy when you are hungry for something much more nutrient.

There is no substitute for the book. You cannot snuggle with a laptop in your bed at night and read a chapter. You cannot leaf backwards and forwards with a roaming finger to remind yourself of something you read earlier. The Internet and computer are extremely efficient but for actually reading deeply into something, they are useless. When I want to read a long article which I find interesting, I have to print it out and read it on paper. The absorption of the material is just not the same.

In "Star Trek-the Next Generation", three centuries away, Jean-Luc Picard is often seen with a book in his hands, usually when he has retiresd to his quarters. The author of that series could not bring himself to imagine a bookless world!
fiona-h said…
I love books but I also am a fan of the Internet. I don't have any regrets about the time I have spent here, at least not so far :-)
I pick my Internet reading in much the same way that I pick the books I read - with judgement.

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