An Atlantic writer bemoans the end of the serve and volley game in professional tennis. If you’ve been watching tennis recently, you’ll recognize this summation of the game as it’s played today:
"The end result is tennis as we currently know it: the occasional change-of-pace and/or desperation net rush, increasingly quaint amid long, grinding rallies that, ironically, can be just as dull and metronomic as the big serve shootouts they usurped. Heavy topspin shot. Heavy topspin return. Much grunting. Both players working to gain a marginal advantage, until someone uncorks a winner/error down the line or crosscourt."
The picture above is from an HBO documentary about the McEnroe / Borg rivalry. It’s title - not the most original thing you’ve ever heard: Fire and Ice. Also worth bemoaning is the recent dearth of headbands.
James Gleick (author of the recent The Information) gives a calm, non-apocalyptic lecture on the future of books (audio). A welcome relief from the shrillness with which this topic is usually discussed, by whichever camp. Definitely worth a listen.
"At the risk of being a biblionecrophiliac again, let me say that a dead-tree book is an example of “peak technology,” a tool ideally suited to its task. The book is like a hammer. Hammers can be tweaked and buried, but it will never go obsolete.”
"Most people have always been too busy for books. And still, here we are. Lately, this conversation has seemed to be all about the internet, and digital media. Personally, I’m a more or less happy citizen of the cyberspace. I’m not much for Facebook but sometimes I do twitter. I admit my tweets are not serving the cause of literature. They’re not even serving the cause of my next book. Literature is shapely and meditative. Cyberspace is formless and noisy. Literature is slow. Cyberspace operates at light speed. Books stand alone. Cyberspace is all about the connectedness. Cyberspace is hyperspace, where information is concerned. So, let me get out the crystal ball. Here’s what’s going to happen henceforth. Books will survive. I promise. You can take it to the bank. Books have a strange quality…
Meanwhile, even big authors are running for the escape hatches.
The website won a Webby last week, and I think it deserves it. What better way to waste one’s time than making ridiculous, ridiculously inventive objects.
Letters of Note is a blog I keep going back to. Here’s a letter from director Michael Powell to his biggest fan, Martin Scorsese, congratulating him on his Goodfellas script. What it must have meant to Scorsese we can only imagine. Another post there not long ago: Mark Twain to Walt Whitman, on Whitman’s birthday.
This interview with David Foster Wallace was making the rounds a couple of weeks ago. The anxieties are all familiar if you’re of a certain generation, or if you’re a reader of Wallace. The voice of a generation tag always sounds overblown, but was there anyone else who could write about those anxieties and make as many people say That’s exactly how I feel? I think Jonathan Franzen is doing his best to take up the mantle. I don’t know exactly what’s lacking there. It’s not sincerity, I don’t think.
The Atlantic is tailoring itself to keep me, little old me, reading. How else to explain this feature on the notebooks of artists and designers, which is brazen Saint Passionate-bait (see previous notebook posts).