The Paris Review Daily

Posts Tagged ‘apps’

Thoreau and the iPad

December 17, 2013 | by

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Recently I took my iPad to a park across a lake, sat under a tree facing the water, and started reading the e-book version of Walden, Henry David Thoreau’s classic avowal of the possibility of, as well as the necessity for, simplicity amid modern life’s profusion and superfluity. Cognitive dissonance doesn’t get much more dissonant than this.

“Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys … improved means to an unimproved end,” wrote the handyman sage in the book’s first chapter, titled “Economy.” Few toys are prettier than the iPad, and its prettiness is by no means a feat of economy. Its minimalism, for one, belies the complexity of thought that went into its design, while its ease of use obscures the intricacy of the industry behind its manufacture. That there’s nothing new and improved about its ends should be evident from the resemblance between the categories of apps in the App Store and those of stores listed on the touchscreen directory at the entrance of shopping malls—that harried shopper’s guide to the nonvirtual versions of apps for games, books, sports, lifestyle, and even social networking. Or especially social networking, come to think of it, when you consider that the din from the food court or the theater lobby is nothing more than the noise from so many short messages being broadcast on an unmetered network with unlimited bandwidth.

But what does it matter if my iPad is merely a prettier means to pedestrian ends that are, in Thoreau’s words, “already but too easy to arrive at”? Does that make it one more toy to be transcended or tucked out of sight when meditating on sufficiency? I also own a paperback edition of Walden, its pages worn yellow with age and marred with the fervent notes of my much younger self. It has none of the iPad’s high-precision electronics; the letter m is smudged in several places, and yet it’s lost none of its functionality. And apart from enlightenment, it has only one other app, as a paperweight. Is this nonmultitasking relic the authentic medium for the all-in-one manifesto and proof-of-concept of the uncluttered life? Read More »

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The Book Thieves, and Other News

November 22, 2013 | by

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Let the Memory Live Again

April 9, 2013 | by

Screen shot 2013-04-09 at 11.43.37 AMI remember in sixth grade a substitute teacher asked the class if we knew any poems by heart. Did I! I favored the assembled company with a little Wordsworth, some Blake, and, because I was cool like that, a soupçon of Ogden Nash. Needless to say, everyone was really impressed, and I was incredibly popular for the rest of the school year. My penchant for oversize flannel jumpers only helped!

As usual, I was ahead of my time: Penguin Classics has released an amazing app called Poems by Heart, a memorization game that helps users learn poetry. For me the virtues of rote learning were their own reward. But for those who require slightly more incentive, the app provides a scoring program, a recording mechanism, and original art. Flannel jumper optional.

 

 

 

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Do-Gooders, Good Covers

October 3, 2012 | by

  • Check out Design Observer’s list of cover-design award winners.
  • A California school library is saved by an anonymous sixty-thousand-dollar donation.
  • An interactive Shakespeare app includes narration by Derek Jacobi, an Elizabethan-to-modern translation function, and video clips.
  • Three protest songs by Nicholson Baker: the writer takes on military intervention, Bradley Manning, and civilian casualties.
  • “I got my M.F.A. out on the streets. My thesis advisor was a garbage bag filled with overdue library books.” How to apply to an M.F.A. program.

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    Good-bye, Friends; Hello, Technology!

    June 28, 2012 | by

  • Au revoir, Village Voice bookstore! You will be missed!
  • Slow readers, listen up: a new app tells you exactly how long it will take to finish a book.
  • Library patrons can now not only borrow but publish books.
  • The best Nora Ephron bookstore moments.
  • Meet “The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of His Verdict,” a new Iranian video game.
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    On the Shelf

    September 7, 2011 | by

    Mark Twain.

  • A study finds that reading fiction may improve empathy.
  • Carol Ann Duffy: “Poems are a form of texting.”
  • Language fail.
  • The Man-Booker shortlist is announced. Herewith, a cheat sheet.
  • Philip Schultz: “[My tutor] worked with me to try to teach me how to read, without any success at all. And one day out of frustration asked me what I thought I was going to do in life if I couldn’t read. And surprising both of us, I said I wanted to be a writer. And he laughed.”
  • Mark Twain’s charming love letter.
  • On bookshelf aesthetics.
  • Feral is having a moment.
  • A new Wuthering Heights adaptation is “caked in grime and damp with saliva.” Oh, and “salted with profanity.”
  • Ten years on, reading 9/11.
  • Profanisaurus? There’s an app for that.
  • George R. R. Martin, fanboy.
  • Haunting images of America’s asylums.
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