Preface: Reaching for the Book
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p r e f a c e : r e a c h i n g f o r t h e b o o k The book you are about to read is the product of a lifetime spent both in freely consorting with other books and in negotiating a rich and diverse, if not comprehensive panoply of systems. The latter have included systems primarily familial or communal, legal, technological, and cultural in their primary impact and thrust. They have been organized over time in order to regulate, within the jurisdictions I have inhabited, such phenomena as political and economic life and opportunity, travel and residence, public order, domestic cohabitation, education, and aesthetic and sexual expression. The intense and volatile loop in which books and systems are involved in mutual communications, feedback, and revision and adaptation is by no means obvious or intuitive. Systems would at first glance seem inimical to books, especially to ones of cultural elucidation and critique. In their very architecture, they would seem to foreclose the expansive proliferation of logical, speculative, scientific, imaginary, informational, and skeptical possibilities that such books barely manage to contain within their bindings. Systems , by the same token, would seem to annex books among the other things and phenomena that they regulate, characterize, order, select, and, through multifarious methods, efficiently or not, bring under control. This striking dissonance, which is also a communications highway for needed messaging, is both the starting point for the following study and an investigative topography that it will not abandon. I spend a disproportionate amount of my time and life’s blood (qi, in Chinese medicine, as we shall see in Chapter 8) in circulating among and between various systems. I am hardly alone or unique in this regard. These in turn play a decisive if not absolute role in calibrating the possible qualities and outcomes of the interactions in which I am involved. Time and experience have conditioned me, in no irrevocable way, concerning what to expect PAGE xi xi ................. 17885$ PREF 10-20-10 14:48:36 PS xii Preface from my systemic interchanges. Some obvious examples of systematically nuanced interactions with the world include: the parameters of collegiality and friendship, where these relations, stemming from very different sectors, overlap and interchange, as well as where they do not; the role of professionalization , not only in structuring my interactions with my colleagues and the work we share but as a template, submerged or not, for other associations I entertain but do not associate with vocation and livelihood; what my acknowledged role vis-à-vis the cycle of (biological) reproduction both demands and withholds from me, whether this relation is defined by marriage or not, whether it is legal or not. My shuffling or scrolling between the particular social subsystems crystallizing around and impinging on my ‘‘official’’ or documented life in large measure defines me and any singularity or distinction I can claim. This relentless surfing also perforce earmarks me as nomadic, homeless in the broadest sense of the term. Regardless of the extent of my realestate holdings, of my claim or lack of it to a fixed abode or address, I am congenitally homeless to the degree that I rarely, if ever, dwell in the convergence of the communicative and sociocultural systems with which I chiefly and characteristically interact. The sheer multiplication and dissonance of the respective systems renders me an alien, transient, a ‘‘temporary ,’’ without benefits, within each system with which I intersect. As I have elsewhere suggested, this drift in my systemic interactions, whether accompanied by physical travel or dislocation or not, combined with my ongoing cybernetic hookup to all time zones in the world, places me in a permanent state of jet lag.1 Jetlag, along with its signature jarring senses of dissociation and dislocation, becomes one of the most compelling figures for contemporary consciousness. All the while wandering from system to system, I spend a substantial portion of every working day occupied with the storage and translation into different electronic file formats, whether text, photo, video, or audio, of material that I either compose myself or download from that immense brain or database known as the Worldwide Web. The brunt and authentic signi ficance of memory and translation has, in recent years and by dint of this technological evolution, shifted from being between national languages, dialects , and other linguistic idioms to residing between, on the interface between different operating systems, media languages...



Subject Headings

  • Criticism.
  • Social systems.
  • Literature -- Philosophy.
  • Books -- History.
  • Books and reading -- Sociological aspects.
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