The Breakfast Table

Bits vs. Dead Trees

Marisa, are you high? Trees are the opposite of technology, which means man-made. Books aren’t technology, either, and you know what people mean when they say “technology,” just like Potter Stewart knew obscenity when he saw it. Of course some people interested in books are less “social” than many interested in computers. But there’s no doubt about it: books are better than computers. They’re smarter, prettier, deeper, cheaper, and more reflective of everything good about the human spirit. If you had to live with only one or the other for the rest of your life, you should choose books over the Internet.

I probably would choose the Internet, I admit. My fondness for pornography, sports betting, and real-time stock quotes overwhelms my strong affection for literature. And with book sales flat, I’m not alone, obviously. My other gig, Esquire, has just published its summer-reading issue as an e-book. It’s a hit, and it’s real good stuff. But the feeling of an eight-hour communion with a beloved book is extremely tough to replicate on the Internet. Why? For the same reason that this “Breakfast Table” works–I’ve got 15 windows open on my Mac right now, I’m carrying on 10 instant-message conversations (this guy wants to talk about Vespas, this chick wants to know “how to become a writer,” my brother needs the money line and the under on the Mets, my boss has a joke to tell me, my editor at Esquire has his last day tomorrow and he’s determined to break my balls about deadlines till the bitter end …)–the Internet is about quick fixes.

As for Michiko, I’ve sworn her off for the last time after her creepy Richard Powers review.