While I frequently rail against the digital age, the nefariousness of video games — while I believe children should play outside in apple trees and ride bikes, and read real books — while I am the champion of the world made by hand and do-it-yourself ad nauseum — the truth is, I find the digital world just plain fun at times.
My dad sent me a power point presentation he made for his class, and I watched it with my older daughter. At one point, she started exclaiming, Did grandpa photoshop that? I had no idea; I was too busy reading the words. God, she said, of a monastery in Bhutan, I’d like to be there.
At the end, she said, Cool beans to grandpa — that’s high accolades from a teenager.
This past day, I’ve been sending text back and forth to my publisher, making the very last changes on my novel before it heads, digitally of course, to the printers. An s was dropped here; I added acknowledgments, a dedication, and permissions. It’s all email, back and forth, with notes and exclamations, and phone calls of course, too. But truly, having read these 278 pages over and over, in the end, it all comes down to the writing. To story, craft, beauty, and meaning.
But the digital realm offers much to us in rural Vermont. I remember some winters standing outside the co-op with a baby on my back, reading the posters as cultural infusion. Here’s a paragraph I filched from that bounty of my dad’s material:
Like anything that one makes well with one’s own hands, writing good nonfiction prose can be profoundly satisfying. Yet after a day of arranging my research, my set of facts, I feel stale and drained, whereas I am energized by fiction. Deep in a novel, one scarcely knows what may surface next, let alone where it comes from. In abandoning oneself to the free creation of something never beheld on earth, one feels almost delirious with a strange joy.
“The Craft of Fiction in Far Tortuga”
Interview of Peter Matthiessen
The Paris Review 60 (winter 1974)