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Spring 2024


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A Review of The Demon of Writing
Chasing Paper

In a new review in The New York Review of Books, Robert Darnton discusses Ben Kafka’s The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the review. An excerpt appears below.

“If the Internet has revolutionized communication as thoroughly as most of us believe, one of its by-products is likely to be nostalgia—a longing for a past when messages came on paper. Texting and e-mailing have cut us off from what once composed the material substratum of communication. Contrary to common belief, cyberspace is not like outer space—that is, empty. It is composed of cables and servers, not of clouds. But there is an immaterial eeriness to texting and e-mailing, at least for those of us who are not digital natives. We may enjoy the tactile compactness of smart phones and the bright glow of computer screens, but the messages we exchange seem to be disembodied—words that come and go across the screens without being attached to anything solid. The uneasiness produced by reading disembodied words can be taken as an opportunity to reassess the experience of dealing with words on paper.”