The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age

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Macmillan, Nov 14, 2006 - Literary Criticism - 256 pages
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"[A] THOUGHTFUL AND HEARTFELT BOOK...A literary cri de coeur--a lament for literature and everything implicit in it."
--The Washington Post
In our zeal to embrace the wonders of the electronic age, are we sacrificing our literary culture? Renowned critic Sven Birkerts believes the answer is an alarming yes. In The Gutenberg Elegies, he explores the impact of technology on the experience of reading. Drawing on his own passionate, lifelong love of books, Birkerts examines how literature intimately shapes and nourishes the inner life. What does it mean to "hear" a book on audiotape, decipher its words on a screen, or interact with it on CD-ROM? Are books as we know them dead?
At once a celebration of the complex pleasures of reading and a boldly original challenge to the new information technologies, The Gutenberg Elegies is an essential volume for anyone who cares about the past and future of books.
"[A] wise and humane book....He is telling us, in short, nothing less than what reading means and why it matters."
--The Boston Sunday Globe
"Warmly elegiac...A candid and engaging autobiographical account sketches his own almost obsessive trajectory through avid childhood reading....This profoundly reflexive process is skillfully described."
--The New York Times Book Review
"Provocative...Compelling...Powerfully conveys why reading matters, why it is both a delight and a necessity."
--The Harvard Review

 

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The Gutenberg elegies: the fate of reading in an electronic age

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Birkerts, the author of three books of criticism (American Energies, LJ 6/1/92), has written a collection of 14 essays discussing the changing role of reading as "culture has begun to go through what ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Title Page
An Autobiographical
The Owl Has Flown
The Woman in the Garden
Privacies of Reading
The Shadow Life of Reading
From the Window of a Train
Into the Electronic Millennium
Close Listening
Of Mouse and
The Western Gulf
The Death of Literature
The Narrowing Ledge
Notes
Afterword to the 2006 Edition
Cited Material

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About the author (2006)

Sven Birkerts is an American essayist and literary critic of Latvian ancestry. He is best known for his book The Gutenberg Elegies, which posits a decline in reading due to the overwhelming advances of the Internet and other technologies of the "electronic culture."

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