January 27, 2010: It’s weird when you think about it: Apple releases the iPad just as Salinger breathes his last. It feels like the ending of a play.
J.D. Salinger and Jack Kerouac were the tortured voices that led us into forbidden places in our minds. We followed them, spellbound, as they sauntered into dark rooms we would never have entered alone.
Then Salinger’s Holden Caulfield shuffled onto the big screen as James Dean and gave us brooding angst in Rebel Without a Cause and Kerouac’s Dean Moriarty bopped onto the little screen as Maynard G. Krebs and gave us freedom of expression in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.
America said, “The movie was good, but the book was better.”
But America has since changed her mind. Today she says, “Out with the old literature!” that requires focused attention as you experience a story in the quiet of your mind. “In with the new literature!” that requires nothing from you but to sit, slack-jawed and drooling as flashing images enter your brain.
Joseph Brodsky saw this day coming and tried to do something about it. When he was named Poet Laureate in 1991, Brodsky proposed a populist poetry initiative that might “turn this nation into an enlightened democracy… before literacy is replaced with videocy.”
Methinks it may be too late, Joseph.
The glittering iPad promises movies, TV shows and YouTube videos at our fingertips, 24 hours a day, wherever we happen to be. No need to carry a pill bottle. Just touch the screen and go unconscious. This tablet is electronic.
Yes, I’ll buy one.
Of course I will.
And I will feel sad.
Roy H. Williams
ON SECOND THOUGHT, NO, I will not merely shrug my shoulders and sigh. I will call a 48-hour meeting of the literate – the Cognoscenti – and invite great authors to come and speak to us as we remember Salinger and Kerouac and Brodksy and revel in our literary heritage. We'll make it a fundraising event to help us finish our own great bastion to new thought, high art and deep literature – the grand Tower at Wizard Academy.
Come, be one of the first 10 people to contribute $1,000 and you'll have a free room in Engelbrecht House, the student mansion in the valley below the tower. The First Annual Wizard Academy Writer's Conference will be May 19-20. Can you come? Will you? If we can find the rest of the money – exactly $196,851. – the tower can be completely finished in June or July. Come. We'll sing. – RHW