September 29, 2009

Bukowski's Christmas present

A 'Report from the Bibliographic Bunker' on this month begins: “On Christmas Day, 1990, Charles Bukowski received a Macintosh IIsi computer and a laser printer from his wife, Linda. The computer utilized the 6.0.7 operating system and was installed with the MacWrite II word processing program. By January 18 of the next year, the computer was up and running and so, after a brief period of fumbling and stumbling, was Bukowski.”

How amazing is that! Two hours away down the California coast, I too was receiving a Mac for Christmas! Well, maybe two years and two hours away, I’m not really sure, it might have been 1988, but what are a couple of years in the cosmic scheme of things? I had it up and running the same day. It wasn’t hard, you just read the little book – what was it called again, oh yes, the manual - which came with it, and then you could put the manual on your rug and use it as a mouse pad for your one-click mouse.

The old Macs were so cool. I don't think anything else as cool was ever invented during my lifetime, or at least that portion of my lifetime since I've known about cool. I can think of handy things like suitcases with wheels or cell phones, even notably crazy things like the Concorde, but nothing as cool as the Mac. The two major coolnesses were 1) the way they looked and 2) they were absolutely incompatible with Windows which, having just been purchased by IBM, was pretty clearly going to be the industry standard, so if you chose the Mac you were happy to be completely cut off from mainstream America. I’m sure Linda was on to that.

Despite the fact - a bit mysterious - that it took 24 days to get Bukowski’s Mac up and running, it appears that he took happily to the new technology, writing a poem to the Intel chip (it’s reprinted in the Report) and musing that “There is something about seeing your words on a screen before you that makes you send the word with a better bite, sighted in closer to the target. I know a computer can’t make a writer but I think it makes a writer better. Simplicity in writing and simplicity in getting it down, hot and real.”

This is just the opposite of what I’d always assumed, which was that computers were to blame for the way some authors of the last 20 years have driven me crazy recently by including in their books what appears to be every single thing that passes through their heads. That would be Rick Moody (everything after The Ice Storm, a very good book rife with exhiliration and pain), Dave Eggers (everything), and Jonathan Franzen (I only ever tried The Corrections and when the daughter’s second or third long story started up I had to fast forward to the end, which made me cry -- the ending, not the fast-forwarding). Maybe I’m wrong, and this lack of discrimination is about temperament, and not operational at all.

The 'Report from the BB' goes on to contrast Bukowski’s interest in new technology with William S. Burroughs’s point of view, expressed in an interview in 1987, that you know, it just didn’t seem worth the trouble to figure out how to use a computer, although apparently he had one in the house. This inspired someone named Egil (a real name?) to comment that in his old age Burroughs may have preferred “something reliable like a gun.” I mentally shrieked. Egil, are you sure that “reliable” is the right choice of word? You mean like that thing made of steel which if you’re not careful you can kill someone with? What, he did?

Now, for a genius take on the problems of adjusting to new technology, watch this gem from the show "Øystein og jeg" on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), "The Medieval Help Desk". Don't worry, it's subtitled!

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 04:30


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