Sven Birkerts


Born
in Pontiac, Michigan, The United States
September 21, 1951

Genre


Sven Birkerts is an American essayist and literary critic of Latvian ancestry. He is best known for his book The Gutenberg Elegies, which posits a decline in reading due to the overwhelming advances of the Internet and other technologies of the "electronic culture."

Birkerts graduated from Cranbrook School and then from the University of Michigan in 1973. He has taught writing at Harvard University, Emerson College, Amherst College, and most recently at Mount Holyoke College. Birkerts is the Director of the Bennington College Writing Seminars and the editor of AGNI, the literary journal. He now lives in the Boston area, specifically Arlington, Massachusetts, with his wife Lynn, daughter Mara, and son Liam.

His father is noted architect Gunnar
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Average rating: 3.91 · 3,159 ratings · 403 reviews · 31 distinct worksSimilar authors
The Gutenberg Elegies: The ...

3.70 avg rating — 490 ratings — published 1994 — 8 editions
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The Art of Time in Memoir: ...

really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 360 ratings — published 2007 — 4 editions
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Changing the Subject: Essay...

3.83 avg rating — 108 ratings — published 2015
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The Other Walk: Essays

4.08 avg rating — 98 ratings — published 2011 — 3 editions
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Reading Life: Books for the...

3.76 avg rating — 50 ratings — published 2007
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My Sky Blue Trades: Growing...

3.82 avg rating — 39 ratings — published 2002 — 2 editions
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Readings

3.54 avg rating — 24 ratings — published 1999
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An Artificial Wilderness:Es...

3.78 avg rating — 18 ratings — published 1987
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The Electric Life: Essays o...

really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 14 ratings — published 1989
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Tolstoy's Dictaphone: Techn...

3.90 avg rating — 10 ratings — published 1996
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“I often find that a novel, even a well-written and compelling novel, can become a blur to me soon after I've finished reading it. I recollect perfectly the feeling of reading it, the mood I occupied, but I am less sure about the narrative details. It is almost as if the book were, as Wittgenstein said of his propositions, a ladder to be climbed and then discarded after it has served its purpose.”
Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age

“What reading does, ultimately, is keep alive the dangerous and exhilarating idea that a life is not a sequence of lived moments, but a destiny...the time of reading, the time defined by the author's language resonating in the self, is not the world's time, but the soul's. The energies that otherwise tend to stream outward through a thousand channels of distraction are marshaled by the cadences of the prose; they are brought into focus by the fact that it is an ulterior, and entirely new, world that the reader has entered. The free-floating self--the self we diffusely commune with while driving or walking or puttering in the kitchen--is enlisted in the work of bringing the narrative to life. In the process, we are able to shake off the habitual burden of insufficient meaning and flex our deeper natures.”
Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age

“Reading, because we control it, is adaptable to our needs and rhythms. We are free to indulge our subjective associative impulse; the term I coin for this is deep reading: the slow and meditative possession of a book. We don't just read the words, we dream our lives in their vicinity. The printed page becomes a kind of wrought-iron fence we crawl through, returning, once we have wandered, to the very place we started.”
Sven Birkerts

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