March 8, 2012
MarkBernstein.org
 
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Reply To An Editor

Dear Bill,

     I simply cannot concentrate

On these eBooks about which you inquire.

You know that I love books. I used to spend

Long days at home beside the parlor fire

With lovely leather volumes. Mom would send

The maid to bring a slice of pie and tea,

And put another log onto the grate.

I’ve always lived with books, so I can see

Why, looking for dissent, you thought of me.

Home wasn't really like that, but you know

I want to say I just can’t concentrate

On reading like I used to, years ago.

The Kindle kindles in my heart no glow,

No inky perfume rises from my Nook,

My iPad’s leather cover does not resonate

With the perfluent dreaming of the book.

Its brightly-glowing screen distracts my eye:

I wish I had another slice of pie.

I cannot find that strength that in past days

Let me ignore the party in my room,

The deadline for Psych 6, the certain doom

That if I failed to get at least three As

My whole career might go right down the chute.

But – hey! – that girl who just came in, she’s kind of cute.

Even then I knew an arbitrary choice –

Should I read another chapter of the Joyce?

Should I take a break right now? – might, in due course,

Lead to warm embraces, grandchildren, and divorce.

I cannot concentrate. Is it just me?

Or is it lack of pie, so warm and good?

I used to read for hours in my room,

Poring over Heidegger and Hume,

Asimov and Tolkien. Hard reading then

Was light, and light verse very heaven.

Nor was reading then at risk, although I could

Risk parental wrath by reading after ten.

Those tactile, haptic joys the screen denies,

The paperback’s materiality,

These simply were the way things always stood,

The nature of the world, and no technology

Had ever altered books, or ever would.

How will these eBooks change us? Will children’s minds

Be warped by the fell Web’s distracting call,

The spammer’s snare, the phisher’s subtle lies?

I cannot seem to concentrate at all.

Each page is filled with links. Each link reminds

Me how much I miss that pie, or offers to amuse

Me and to sell me stuff I do not – cannot – use.

Oh fuck. I cannot concentrate for shit.

You know this, Bill. So what’s with all the faxes

That pester me to write your eBook piece?

The fee you offer made me think a bit,

Especially because I’ve bills for taxes

And Mom's Alzheimer clinic, and my lease.

The book world is collapsing 'round our ears;

This article can only end in tears.