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Posts Tagged ‘Walden’

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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‘Walden’ the Video Game, Merwin the Movie, Space-Age Books!

May 1, 2012 | by

  • Walden: the most contemplative video game ever created?
  • W. S. Merwin: the movie.
  • The dog from The Artist has a book deal.
  • Gertrude Stein’s bad war record.
  • This is your kids on books.
  • The Casablanca e-book: the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
  • Predictions from 1962 on the future of book publishing: “Books will be smoother, faster and slicker, and will be strongly influenced by space travel.”
  • New York Public Library, Monday afternoon.
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    Staff Picks: A Fan’s Notes, Foster Wallace on TV

    September 2, 2011 | by

    In light of the recent article about TV producer Michael Schur and his obsession with David Foster Wallace, I spent tropical storm Irene watching the first two seasons of Parks and Recreation for signs of the maestro. At least, that’s why I watched the first couple of episodes. Then, well—it was just like that scene in Infinite Jest with the Saudi medical attaché, only with Netflix. —Lorin Stein

    September is officially the beginning of football season in America and the perfect time to read the best football book ever written, Frederick Exley’s fictional memoir A Fan’s Notes, which has nothing to do with the game and everything to do with why we watch it. —Cody Wiewandt

    I was immediately taken with Jeff Sharlet’s new book Sweet Heaven When I Die. All I had to do was open to the first lines of  “Sweet Fuck All, Colorado:” “When I was eighteen I fell hard for the state of Colorado as embodied by a woman with long honey blond hair and speckled green eyes, who drank wine from a coffee mug and whiskey from the bottle.” —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

    I escaped the hurricane but got stuck in Chicago this weekend, which at least gave me a chance to spend time at one of my favorite Evanston bookstores, Market Fresh Books (they sell books for $3.99 a pound!). Among the treasures I picked up was an illustrated 1882 edition of Nicholas Nickleby, which I was all the more excited to dive into after reading in last week’s New Yorker about all the “fun” at Dickens camp. —Ali Pechman

    Let’s hear it for small presses! Bookthug, an indie house in Toronto, recently reissued bpNichol’s The Captain Poetry Poems. Originally released as a mimeograph by bill bissett in 1970, Bookthug’s edition marks the first complete publication of all of the poems in the series, plus a smattering of drawings by Nichol. This is joyous, mythmaking poetry at its best. —Nicole Rudick

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