I am late! It is the end of winter -- someone says it is spring -- and
I haven't written an editorial for Trout yet. Brian keeps reminding
me that it's due, but I keep excusing myself with illness, job changes,
book deadlines, car problems and just about any incident which requires
some attention from me on an almost daily basis. It makes me wonder how
writers ever find the time to write. Don't they have televisions? Do they
live in towns without music, families, cinemas and ISPs? Do their roofs
never leak? Don't they have gardens to tend? I mean, this editorial is
distracting me from life, and my oldest friend claims that the reverse
is the case. Is there no balance? Is there no calm mean? Not for me.
am, I feel, not alone. When we try to mix life with life's documentation
we are now all faced with weirder and weirder problems. Our new technologically
efficient and demanding lives, have changed
the way we write. The hurried nature of daily life is a style of
writing today. No longer just a Beat experiment or a pub poetry fest in
the 70s, frenetic discourse is part and parcel of an environment where
every second is precious. Manic email messages spill out across the world,
most little more than knee-jerk responses triggered by some other knee-jerk
response, a veritable fusion reactor of digital characters which some say
the internet has become. Even our newspaper articles have become mere summaries
and tables. Graphs tell us more more quickly, we are told. A well-constructed
sentence might have a certain beauty, but wherever possible a memo is preferred
over those last few grating chapters of War and Peace or the over-produced
Book of Kells. "Less is more" means that we get a hell of a lot
of Beckett's unutterable lessness.
all has to be managed, all this lessness. It all has to fit inside a person's
head. It has to mean something; it has to be of use. But so often we are
told that it's best to set aside the drive for significance and meaning.
We should just lie back and let "it" rush through us like a cheap designer
drug or the sinus infection I have lately so tortuously endured. Between
times, reality calls with its leaking roofs and broken-down automobiles.
internet has become famous for what is, on a good day, called anarchy and,
on a bad day, garbage (in New Zealand we called it rubbish). No one's responsible,
we are told. Isn't that as it should be? These ideas fit in well with the
culture of devolved responsibility we find in New Zealand governmental
affairs, and I have to agree -- I want to agree -- that I much prefer to
have the information "out there", readily available to all and sundry regardless
of race, creed, colour or credit card. But someone is still responsible,
even on the internet. Every writer who ignores her editor, becomes solely
responsible for the results of their self-publication, not freed from responsibility.
Internet authors can't say that they have been "devolved of all responsibility"
rather, they have acquired more responsibilities for the things they say
and the way that they say them.
I think of internet authorship -- the collusion and refusal to accept personal
responsibility so common on the net -- I am reminded of an anecdote which
is no doubt still related at stage one Psych. courses in universities all
around the world. It tells of a woman stabbed in a alley in New York. The
assailant escapes, but returns later in a protracted attempt to finish
off the job because the victim continues to scream so loudly. It is discovered
later that dozens of tenants in the apartments backing onto this alley
were aware of the incident as it took place, but they did nothing to help
the victim because they knew that other tenants like themselves were also
watching, doing nothing, devolving themselves of responsibility.
like the idea of the internet, but I am concerned that if I get too used
to pointing and clicking, tapping and hitting the return key, I am going
find myself too much a part of the global village and its mores to think
for myself. That worries me because I've always thought of myself as an
independent thinker. I have even imagined from time to time that the internet
is the ideal forum for such a person -- that ideal independent thinker.
But none of us are that person. We all have to live in the world, and we
make concessions at all levels of our being members of the world. We are
all susceptible, just like any apartment-dweller.
the end, I turned on myself. I had been thinking for weeks about this little
editorial, but in the end I only wrote notes to myself about writing. I
generously requested myself to write slowly, miss deadlines, not to respond
immediately to email messages, to think about everything I said, and to
delay saying anything until I knew what I wanted to say and could know
with some certainty that I was responsible for the statement I wanted to
make. I aimed high, and asked myself: what other value is there in writing
but to connect it to the "real world". What other way is there to make
that connection than by a statement of faith from the author which goes:
"I am not fucking around with you; this is the truth"? That is the way
paper-based publishing has worked for centuries ... and it is a good thing.
I don't see why anyone should take an internet document seriously until
its internet author can show her readers that she is connected with reality.
In the end it won't be the regularity, consistency or deadlines the internet
imposes on us that makes it valuable. It will be the quality of the thoughts
this new medium carries to us.