Sunday, May 24, 2009
Mark Helprin, to quote from his website "belongs to no literary school, movement, tendency, or trend. As many have observed and as Time Magazine has phrased it, 'He lights his own way'." His new book Digital Barbarism, is a "defense of private property in the age of digital culture, with its degradation of thought and language, and collectivist bias against the rights of individual creators." Potentially interesting stuff, but Helprin comes across as so comically full of himself that it's hard to take him seriously, especially when served up in concentrated doses as here by Larry Lessig and here by Michiko Kakutani. Lessig does take him seriously, however, and his 12 page review is not only entertaining, but instructive for those of us who have not thought much about one of the central complaints of Helprin's book, ie. why intellectual property does not entail the same kind of perpetual ownership as real property. Helprin's many other complaints - about “mouth-breathing morons in backwards baseball caps and pants that fall down, beer-drinking dufuses who pay to watch noisy cars driving around in a circle for eight hours at a stretch; and an entire race of females, now entering middle age, that speaks in North American Chipmunk and seldom makes a statement without, like, a question mark at the end?” etc. etc., might be more amusing were they offered as the bewilderment of an uncomprehending observer rather than shrill self-righteousness.