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Saturday, 8 December 2007

Hard Lessing

It is one of the paradoxes of our age that, even as the Internet - comparable in scope and range to aviation or the phone, perhaps combined - alters our imaginative landscape, and permits extraordinary freedom of expression and transmission of information - certain vested interests, and older literary figures seek to cancel out its achievements. Latest to protest too much is Nobel laureate Doris Lessing. Her new anti-net diatribe is not new, but stale invective. It is a retread of that old canard that books will be killed off by digital enjoyments. Blogging is singled out for its addictive, time-wasting effects, a new opium. Sadly, Lessing ignores the fact that blogging encourages writing, and reading - and is a new genre of creative writing. Just as comics were once seen as the ultimate foe of literacy, and are now revered as a new kind of classic, so too may be certain works of the Internet-era, in future. At the very least, the enemy of great writing is not the web. It may, instead, be the mind-dulling latter stages of capitalism, which increasingly bamboozles us all. The Internet can oppose, as much as support, this ad-copy-world. Lessing, so good at some things, has thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
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