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The Short Form

Tom McCarthy on technology

Tom McCarthy on addressing new technologies in writing:

The argument that the advent of the Internet somehow marks a Telecom Year Zero after which nothing will ever be the same can be made only by ignoring the actual history of literature. Look at Kafka’s obsession with telephones; or the way the phonograph, for Bram Stoker, mirrors the vampire as a machine for bringing the dead to life (or, conversely, storing the living in dead form); or at the obsessive attention Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa is forced to pay to ink and desks and messengers. Don’t both “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet,” with their vital plot-devices of switched or undelivered letters, address anxieties about the postal system? The best writers have always understood that to write is to both grapple with and, to some extent, allegorize the very regime of technological mediation without which writing wouldn’t exist in the first place.