cafe life

Posted on May 8, 2009
Filed Under philosophy | 1 Comment

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Personally, I hate Cafes. But then I’m a misanthrope.  From the  New Yorker |

The best thing I read this week was a blog post by George Jonas (…) comparing the literary cafés of pre-Second World War Europe to the Internet. The two, he argues, are not unalike:

A literary café was a cesspool, an insane asylum, but also an oasis of sanity and an outpost of liberty. It depended on the table you picked. Ideas spawned at table six could rescue—or destroy—everyone at table seven. Cyberspace is a literary café with countless tables, that’s all.

For all Jonas’s optimism about out current predicament, though, reading his essay made me nostalgic for a world I’ve never inhabited, and in all likelihood never will. His descriptions of the old days are descriptions of place. Here is what he recalls: espresso cups, ashtrays, cognac snifters, “yellow-blue” tobacco smoke; marble-topped tables, wooden reading racks, inky periodicals that smudged readers’ hands; playing cards, disheveled clothing; and words that are “intoxicating” and “sharp,” and which “inflict lasting damage.”

Jonas is seventy-three years old. His age is important to consider when weighing the essay, because it is an essay of remembrance. And how does he remember? It seems absurd to point out that matter is the stuff our lives and memories are made of, but perhaps it is necessary today. Jonas says that “Cyberspace is a café with countless tables,” but it seems to me that the essential difference is that there is no table. I think many who desire a literary life today find the absence of traditional signifiers troublesome—it is, of course, at the heart of the debate over e-books, when readers complain that they cannot underline passages, or fold pages, or break spines. What will we remember of what we have read and discussed when we are seventy-three? Or, rather, how will we recall our experience of it?

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One Response to “cafe life”

  1. Clayton on July 31st, 2014 8:21 am

    tractor@unfenced.briefcase” rel=”nofollow”>.…

    good info!!…

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