I was somehow caught up by Carolyn G’s words: “Pixels are the malleable
substance some of us have wished print could be… Pixels are things you
pick up and move, remove, change, add to.” How interesting, I thought, that
this should arise from the contemplation of our sample text, Madame Bovary.
For Flaubert, if anyone, willed expression in the direction of
immutability. There was the right word, the right expression, and it was
the writer’s solemn task to look in himself, in herself, to find it.

Lying in bed this morning, pre-coffee, I thought: Carolyn G is, at least in
that part of her commentary, wishing print could go more the way of
thought. Isn’t this what the malleability of the pixel represents? A fluid,
changeable expression that is closer to the nature of thought. While I have
always believed that changeable thought ultimately sought the fulfillment
of ideal expression, of Flaubert’s “mot juste.” But then — still in bed,
with coffee — I started wondering if all this didn’t come down to that
most basic of philosophical splits, between the Platonists who believed
there were fundamental essences, and the Aristotelians for whom life was
not so much given as constructed. Well, those of us who are bent on
expression — who are, in short, Platonists — are likely to be suspicious
of a medium fueled by the fluid of electricity.

And to carry the implications further, we are likely to be nervous about
the “more active and involved reader” hypothesized by Bob Stein. I have a
primitive view of authorship. I see it — etymologically, too — as a
claiming of authority. I don’t believe in collaborative creativity, at
least not on the scale made possible by hypertext. Call me a Romantic
Platonist if you will, but I believe that the writer is one who, for
whatever reason, is able to find experience and is able to render that
experience so that other individuals can partake of it. A very private
matter. True reading is a one to one, and the value of the text is lowered
by any technological operation that enables the “reader” to zoom, shift,
rearrange, interact, reply…

I’ve been talking in terms of the old style paradigms of writer and reader.
I’ll allow that the technology will change both writing and reading and
that a whole new set of activities will flourish. All sorts of communal
web-weavings and collective furtherings of some multi-perspective
narrative. And some of this stuff will be interesting — interest
determined, as always, by the engagement and intelligence and creativity of
the practitioners. But I don’t want to confuse this with reading in the
missionary position. Let’s get another set of terms: “texting” or
“logoriffing” or something.

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