Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To Boldly Go Where No Blogger Has Gone Before!, or, Four years in

As some days it seems that a depressingly large amount of online talk about books is about their future--or lack thereof--it seems only appropriate that on this, the fourth birthday of I've Been Reading Lately, I look not to the past and its 775 posts but to the future. But what can I say about the future? I don't know any better than you what books will look like in the years to come, or how we'll read them* . . . fortunately, however, as I was distracting myself from the task of folding laundry this evening by watching TV, I realized who does know: the crew of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701!

For right there, in the series' pilot episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," was the answer: by the twenty-third century, books will be stored on cassettes that are similar in appearance to, though a bit smaller than, eight-tracks, and they will be projected on small monitors a page at a time. I have to admit that I'm disappointed less in the relatively bulky data storage that it appears our descendants will devolve to than in the lousy image quality they will achieve; the Kindle and Nook may not perfectly replicate the experience of reading text on a page, but at least they don't look like a splotchy mimeograph of a page set in a distressed, utilitarian typewriter font. Still, it's heartening to have proof that the written word will survive, and even to be reassured that at least one of my favorite writers will as well: Spinoza's Ethics makes an appearance onscreen in the episode.

Poetry, too, survives, as evidenced by a poem that helmsman Gary Mitchell recites to Dr. Elizabeth Dehner:
My love has wings
slender, feathered things
with grace
and upswept curve and
tapered tip
It's unclear from the context whether what Mitchell recites is a fragment or the whole poem, but he reveals that it is called "Nightingale Woman," and it was written by Tarbold on the Canopius Planet in that long ago year of 1996. He also doesn't reveal in what year humans will first learn of the poem--which we would of course have no way of knowing about here in 2009 were it not for Star Trek, given that we've failed thus far to achieve first contact--but he does describe it as "one of the most passionate love sonnets of the past couple of centuries."** So all you oh-no-poetry-is-dying folks can relax for at least a few hundred years.

Thanks for reading these four years; I hope you've enjoyed it even half as much as I have.


  1. Don't know how much you enjoy writing your column so can't say if I enjoy reading it half as much or two-thirds as much or even 1-point-something as much. But I enjoy it. A lot.
    And so does my aunt without the Internet in the UK when I cut and paste selected snippets into my letters. She said, "I must get [the Amory bio of Lord Berners] The Last Eccentric." And she will, though she doesn't know it yet, for Christmas.
    Many thanks!

  2. This post made me smile!!!

  3. Congratulations on four excellent years. The amount of great stuff you read, and the corresponding great stuff you write, always leaves me in awe.

  4. Happy anniversary, Levi. Keep up the great work.