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New Letters – Fat America Thin Literary Art

In “Grounded: An Editor’s Note” (full text online) in the newest edition of New Letters (v76, n4), Robert Stewart says, “As America gets fatter, it seems to want its art to become weightless.”

Ouch. But true. Read on.

“Kindle-like products seem fine enough, but marketing has induced many people I know into feeling guilty for continuing to prefer regular books and journals. I believe that physical matter in literary art, as in the universe, cannot be destroyed. One must know how, and sometimes where, to look. My institution’s library just celebrated the installation of a book ‘robot’ — sealed up, like Poe’s Fortunato, in a cave-like room—where the library will seclude a promised 80 percent of its books and print journals, accessible for request but not for browsing. We can browse cataloguing-in data; but books and journals on shelves, in aisles, belong to the physical world, due for a change. The library has its reasons, as a friend points out, trying to fulfill contradictory missions: to provide access and also preserve the materials. Articles and chapters on library reserve for student reading now must be digitized; so none of my own students need get up and actually enter the library. This weightlessness, I admit, weighs on me…”

And there’s more. Read the rest here.

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