Stacey's Reviews > The Book

The Book by M. Clifford
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Feb 07, 11

bookshelves: my-library-ebook, dystopia, all-time-favorites, imo
Read from January 29 to February 07, 2011

Reading is good, and ebooks are good for readers. They're smaller, cheaper, conserve natural resources. They're accessible to all. Ereaders make it easier on the eyes and hands. Bad eyesight? Use text-to-speech and other audio devices. Or instantly make any book a large-print version. Ride the bus? Now you have a whole library in your pocket. It's wonderful!

I do believe that, wholeheartedly, and have embraced digital reading, along with millions of other avid readers. I love the digital community, the easy to use devices, and above all, the access. I'm pleased that I've reduced clutter, that (if I maintain my equipment,) I'm leaving less of an environmental footprint. Instead of buying 75,000 pages a year, I'm paying for the ethereal – story in pixel.

Technology has its price. In the real world, we have not only an ongoing fight against net neutrality, and access freedom, but also against censorship. Think it's not happening in the “Land of the Free?” Think again.

“Whitewash washes white not only its target but, over time, any memory of the target. That is the purpose of whitewash.” ~ Ron Powers, CNN Opinion Special, speaking of the sanitizing of Huck Finn.

Boyce Watkins, also a CNN Opinon correspondent, labels it thus: “Making a more appropriate version of Mark Twain's novel available...” He says that NOT editing offensive material is “disconnected from reality.”

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, was quietly censored for over 13 years, and replaced in schools with the mutilated version.

Bradbury's tale has become an iconic tale of censorship, (although he has always maintained that he wrote it to highlight how television destroys our desire for literature.) In 451, it was only after most people stopped reading that the Firemen began to burn the books. In a twist of greatest irony, Ballantine, in 1967, began sanitizing the novel. In all, 75 sections were edited in the school and library version issued by this imprint. Bradbury learned of the “mutilation,” around 1979, and a restored version was released in 1980, and Bradbury issued an incredibly important essay called Coda.

In The Book, we have a society of readers and non-readers, presumably in similar proportions to our current reality, but they read everything on a government edited electronic book. Under the influence of environmental crisis, and a highly effective reduce/reuse/recycle program, books gradually came to be seen as a “wrong” choice, then they became unavailable, and finally illegal even to possess.

The Book showcases some of these concerns, and it does it in a wonderfully well-written, compelling, and believable story of a man who has just discovered how circumscribed his access to thought, controversy, growth and challenge has become. Intention at the highest level has been to make these edits for the greater good. Erase even the memory of conflict, and peace is preserved. It's the uniform presentation of the same interpretations that erases the ideological loggerheads of their past.

Without the print versions to compare, edits, both large and small, became very easy to issue, via daily update transmissions. Digital information being highly mutable, is used to “protect” the citizenry from unpleasantness, maintain political correctness, avoid giving offense, expunge inflammatory ideas, and to eventually bring about peace through uniformity.

It's happening now. Some of the participants at ereading forums refer to printed books as DTBs – short for Dead Tree Book. This is very subtle but it is, nevertheless, shaming language. Printed books are gradually being accepted as wasteful, with digital versions the “environmental” response. And with digital versions, we are faced with a blessing and a curse. Find a typo? Fix it. Terminology becomes offensive? Change it. Maybe we should rename 1984 to 2084? Easy as pie, with just a few keystrokes. Want to add a “stronger female character” to Heinlein's brilliant Puppetmasters? All it takes is a few sentences inserted here and there. Voilá, political correctness. It's good, right?

It's a chilling fiction that is all too real. Burn all, burn everything. Fire is bright and fire is clean.


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Reading Progress

02/04/2011
38.0% "total mindf*ck"

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Keim This is practically an essay! Well argued and supported. And an A+++ review.


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