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Monday 27 September 2010

Nicholas Carr says that losing our ability to “deep read” will lead to us losing deep thinking. In discussion with Gideon Haigh he discusses how the eReader will create more distractions, why Google’s predictive text is making us stupid and what we’re losing in the age of high information.

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27 September 2010

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It begins with Phillip Pullman raging at the Man Booker shortlist in the UK’s Telegraph for over-using present tense which he sees as a “wretched fad [that]… drastically narrows the options available to the writer”. The author of the His Dark Material triology thumbs his nose at present tense conclusively, saying “I just don’t read present-tense novels any more. It’s a silly affectation, in my view, and it does nothing but annoy.”

The Guardian follows up on the weekend by tracing:

“the recent upsurge in present-tense narration to the beginning of the 1960s – the moment that [British Prime Minister] Harold Wilson proclaimed a new Britain forged in the white heat of technological revolution. As the pace of modern life accelerates, the present that we’re all living in seems much more immediate, much more fragmentary. In a world of Watergate and Wikileaks we’re much less prepared to accept a final version, an official story.”

Then Pullman himself gets the right of reply in the Guardian, pleading “I want all the young present-tense storytellers (the old ones have won prizes and are incorrigible) to allow themselves to stand back and show me a wider temporal perspective.” He is appealing for the “full range of English tenses” and likens the current trend to that of hand-held camera technique that gives the impression of involvement and urgency.

With such scrutiny on tenses we can only hope that other areas of grammar don’t come under fire. We believe the first person plural could be next in line.

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27 September 2010

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This week the US celebrates Banned Books Week by looking at what books have been challenged for inclusion in public libraries. The week is organised by the American Libraries Association (ALA) to celebrate the freedom to read and spotlights the changing tastes of censors.

Yahoo have put together a list of the most surprising books banned books that includes Captain Underpants (“said to contain offensive language, to be sexually explicit and to be anti-family”), the Harry Potter series (“challenged for occultism, Satanism, violence, being anti-family and having religious viewpoint”) and that well-known purveyor of filth the American Heritage Dictionary which was banned in Missouri in 1978 because it contained no less than 39 objectionable words including “balls”.

The ALA’s own list of commonly challenged books includes American classics The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Color Purple. Elsewhere there’s a map of banned books in the US – Texas isn’t fond of Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was removed from school libraries in California for its “innapropriate content”.

To explain the week’s significance the ALA invokes the word of John F Kennedy: “These libraries should be open to all – except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms.”

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