Jed Perl on writing in the digital age

In The New Republic, Jed Perl has a thoughtful essay on the demands and rewards of writing in the age of instant publication:

Writers write in order to be read. This is obvious. But the speed with which words, once written, are now being read—a speed shaped by technological innovations long before the Internet turned the quick turnaround into the virtually instantaneous turnaround—has set me to thinking about the extent to which writing, for the writer, ought to have a freestanding value, a value apart from the reader. There is too much talk about the literary marketplace, the cultural marketplace, and the marketplace of ideas. We need to remember that a book—or a painting or a piece of music—begins as the product of an individual imagination, and can retain its power even when largely or even entirely ignored. (The paintings of Piero della Francesca were overlooked for several centuries.) I do not for one moment minimize the economic pressures on writers to publish—and to publish, if they are lucky enough to have the choice, in higher-paying places rather than lower-paying ones. I’ve made my living as a writer for 30 years, and I know how difficult it can be. But writers who live for their readers—or for what their editors imagine their readers want—may end up with an impoverished relationship with those readers.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s