Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s Nobel lecture

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio was recently awarded the Nobel prize for literature. His lecture (video) which is rich reading for bibliophiles generally, has a special mention of libraries. [thanks Kári]

Culture, as I have said, belongs to us all, to all humankind. But in order for this to be true, everyone must be given equal access to culture. The book, however old-fashioned it may be, is the ideal tool. It is practical, easy to handle, economical. It does not require any particular technological prowess, and keeps well in any climate. Its only flaw—and this is where I would like to address publishers in particular—is that in a great number of countries it is still very difficult to gain access to books. In Mauritius the price of a novel or a collection of poetry is equivalent to a sizeable portion of the family budget. In Africa, Southeast Asia, Mexico, or the South Sea Islands, books remain an inaccessible luxury. And yet remedies to this situation do exist. Joint publication with the developing countries, the establishment of funds for lending libraries and bookmobiles, and, overall, greater attention to requests from and works in so-called minority languages—which are often clearly in the majority—would enable literature to continue to be this wonderful tool for self-knowledge, for the discovery of others, and for listening to the concert of humankind, in all the rich variety of its themes and modulations.

the digital dark ages? machines of loving grace?

While I find that using my computer for more of my communication and cultural creations works for me, it’s more of a concern when we think of this as the model for large-scale cultural products. The National Library of Australia tells us/warns us that cultural production in Australia is predominantly in digital form. They’ve made a bold statement about the role of the library in maintaining and preserving these cultural products. It’s a strong but hopeful almost-manifesto ending with Investing in Australia’s digital heritage is an investment for the future. Well done. With that said, here’s a poem I’ve always liked from Richard Brautigan. [thanks gwyn]

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

jeff tweedy + lawrence lessig @ the library

Jeff Tweedy [you know the guy from Wilco and Uncle Tupelo] and Lawrence Lessig [you know, the guy from The Future of Ideas and Free Culture] will be appearing at the New York Public Library on April 7th. Topic: Who Owns Culture?