These strike me as strange prepositions. Though I grew up in an
Irish-American ghetto where “off” had enough prepositional uses to define a
whole social sphere (can I get a smoke off of you? I don’t need to take
that crap off you, etc.) I never think of reading off either book or
screen. Reading off sounds like taking roll. Not surprisingly given Sven’s
interest in the question of “the book [and] its long tradition and its
myriad associations.” It is possible to look upon literature as a Shriner’s
convention, where everyone has a different fez and a miniature vehicle but
where we are all part of the same parade.

I don’t. I believe there is an actual elsewhere, not a subliminal sublime
but a distant Mediterranean of fez and festivity. And so when Sven says of
electronic text that “it is emergent, manifests itself physically from a
somewhere inaccessible to the reader,” I believe he is only halfway to this
shore. The inaccessibility of the fetishized text (in the same South
Buffalo we each possessed relic shards off of the true cross glued into
rosaries, a miracle more plenitudinous than the loaves and fishes) stands
in metonymy for the actual world literally accessible to the reader within
that same space of light and somewhere.

I read from books and read on (or more and more in) screens. The
first preposition, I suppose, locates me in a secondary orality (don’t ask
for whom the gong Ongs) and the second in a readerly community (god save
your virtuality). So, while it is tempting to be beckoned by Sven’s
Bakhtinian contexts, I wonder why call he wishes to call them “hierarchies
of reading” or to sketch a polar world in which we must play off “finely
printed volume[s]” against “low-rent screen[s].”

We had a name for that in South Buffalo too, which prepositionally mostly
had to do with up’s (up yours, stuck up, nose up, up the rebels) but had
its share of off’s as well (oh come off it, where do you get off, lay off
that stuff).

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