MOULTRIE — This past week I got an email from a youngster who was taking me to task for something that had been printed in our newspaper. That’s perfectly fine. It indicates someone is thinking.
What bothered me about this email was not that this young person would like to have me tarred and feathered but the fact that I had trouble reading it. It was mostly one long sentence when it should have been at least three paragraphs. All of the “I’s” were lower cased, and the writer used a lot of “texting” shortcut spelling which I guess we would call “textese.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to go off on modern technology and sound like some old fogey. Modern technology is great. I’m writing this column using modern technology, and I’m saving a small fortune on “white out.” For youngsters, that’s a white paste we once used with typewriters when the wrong letters would get under our fingers.
But I see some irony in that mass communications has “taken off like Lindbergh” but the quality of what’s being said or written may have nose dived. In other words, we can text lickety split but we may have nothing to say. There’s another analogy that involves Viagra, but I won’t go there.
Along those lines, someone asked me the other day if books would soon be a thing of the past and everyone would have a Kindle or an iPad. I said that I hope not. Save me a dirt road and a book.
Now I think Kindles and iPads are great. But I hope there’s always going to be a place for books in the conventional sense. Let me use this analogy: I know that science can give me a pill and a glass of water and the two would constitute all the nutritional value of a plate of pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy. I still prefer the real groceries, even if I have to wash the dishes or get a little gravy on my tie. It’s more fun.
Cicero once said that a room without books is like a body without a soul. I don’t really know about that, but I get his drift.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Rick Bragg recently noted in an edition of Southern Living in a piece titled “Words on Pages,” that when it comes to real books, “I just like to know I have them close when the sun goes down.”
But regardless of whether we have real physical books in the future or whether the stories will appear to us mostly on Kindles, iPods and the like, someone still has to write them. Whether it’s a novel like Lonesome Dove, where the reader can feel the grit of a sand storm in his teeth and smell the sweat of a galloping horse, or whether it’s a recipe that causes one to drool and long for just one more day sitting in mama’s kitchen, sloppy writing and abbreviated language won’t get the job done.
Recently I read a report that said reading among youngsters has increased a bit. I hope this survey is accurate. To write well, one must also read well. And if high tech replaces books with dog-eared pages and worn covers, then so be it ... as long as the content does not diminish. Quality writing can be on stone or microchips.
A few decades ago, there was sort of a fad for speed reading. Various courses taught people how to scan a page in seconds and get the general idea. And while that process may have some application, you can’t taste the grit and feel the leather in Lonesome Dove doing that. Not much is said about “speed reading” anymore.
Woody Allen once said, “I took a speed reading course and read ‘War and Peace.’ It involves Russia.’ ”
And so if you have a chance to encourage a kid to read and write, please do so. This goes for adults as well. Let’s hope that all of this technology is the roadway and not the ditch. Let’s hope that in the future an essay is much more than, “Whasup dog?”
Walden is the editor and publisher of the Moultrie Observer. Email: email@example.com.