Jonathan Franzen, bestselling author such titles as Freedom and The Corrections, showed his deepest hatred for new technology, especially eBooks, at the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia.
While it's worth mentioning both of his books are available in the eBook form, it is also worth noting he doesn't mean eBooks alone will bring down all we have come to known.
eBooks are a mere example of what he calls "fragmentation." That is, technologies such as the Internet, cable, cellular telecommunications devices, among others cause a lack of concentration and offer far too much noise.
For instance, he elaborates in one Guardian article that, because people can't stop consuming their techno-toys such as iPhones, politicians no longer matter, banks control the governments, the banks won't back up their policies, and the people have no control.
Certainly technology does alter the direction of capitalist nations. I can agree that intense consumerism leads to the producers having the upper hand - mind you, capitalism favors the haves over the have-nots. In essence, whoever funds the companies which make the products we consume seizes control.
But isn't that they way it's always been?
Roosevelt shut down banks during the Great Depression, for many citizens felt the banks had too much control and were losing their clients' funds. Hoover shut down all banks and only allowed them reopen if they displayed great integrity. Franzen shouldn't be pointing the finger at such things as eBooks for the overwhelming power of banks. He should be finding a way to stabilize that control, or find a way to pass the control back to the people. I mean, that's what most of his books are about.
I'm not really here to complain about banks, however. What bothers me is his suggestion eBooks are the problem because they lack a sense of permanence.
He claims anyone with an Internet connection cannot write "good fiction." In my view, anyone without either Internet connection or Internet awareness cannot be relevant. I admire the way he disconnects himself from technology as he writes a novel - and this includes various computer games he indulges himself in (eek, absent-minded consumerism!), but I think he's in denial.
eBooks, for instance, can be altered, but who the hell does that? There are still new editions of books, if need-be, and most people just like to read where ever they go. Are eBook consumers blind to the world? No! The entire notion of eReaders is so you don't have to lug around countless books as you explore the world. Even better, eReaders let you download a book instantly if someone recommends it to you, or, say, you're in Ireland and what to read up on some culture.
(eBooks came from solid conceptions, although it's fair to say companies went overboard with eReaders to turn a dollar.)
What he also fails to see, is eBooks aren't the end of the world. That's apparent. They are a stage of evolution. The world changes, always has, always will. If eBooks lead to some new world order, the people of that order will soon learn and adjust. His lack of faith in humanity is appalling, even to a pessimist such as myself. Besides, who said you have to choose eBook or print? I love both and still buy both.
If there's one absolute in life, it's that you never really have control.
As far as impermanence is concerned, the ideas behind the story are what stick around. The focus of a writer should be on the story and what it means, rather than the medium.
Again, what is Franzen suggesting? Nothing really, he's only passing blame. At the end of his statement he added, "One of the consolations of dying is that [you think], 'Well, that won't have to be my problem'. . . . Seriously, the world is changing so quickly that if you had any more than 80 years of change I don't see how you could stand it psychologically."
On a final note, during the heyday of the Gutenberg Printing Press "was criticized for allowing the dissemination of information which may have been incorrect."
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.