The Chimerist

I probably wouldn’t have bought it if I’d known two years ago what I know now about the conditions for workers who make it, but I wake up with my iPad and go to sleep with it. It’s my alarm clock, my nighttime and commuting library, my dictionary, my hand-held radio, my portable television, my default cooking resource, and the best way I know to waste time. I plan my days with it. I take notes on it. Sometimes, when my notebook isn’t nearby, I write by hand on it. And I really like to play with it. The one thing it has not been useful for is the thing I bought it to do: stem the tide of review copies. Occasionally I even use it to entertain (and torment) my cats.

So much of what I do outside of the office involves my iPad that I worry sometimes about my relationship to it, my reliance on it.  I used to feel the same anxiety about the Internet, though, and I’ve realized I just have accept that I’m the sort of person who’s drawn to technologies that facilitate and play with communication, narrative, art, and distraction.

I also love traditional forms. I’m constantly reading novels, on my iPad and otherwise. I have vast bookshelves overflowing with hardcovers and paperbacks, and every time I visit McNally Jackson or Book Court, I acquire more. Once I’m engrossed in something, I really don’t prefer any format over another. Lately I’ve devoured Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be (advance paperback) and I’ve been making my way through Bertrand Russell (on iPad). 

Of course, like anyone who grew up blocking out the world by reading fiction, I worry about the ultimate effects of carrying books into an interactive space. But mostly, curiosity, excitement, and practicality — it’s already happening, like it or not — override my anxiety. 

The Chimera of Greek myth was a fire-breathing abomination, part lion, part goat, and part snake or dragon, that “devastated the country and harried the cattle; for it was a single creature with the power of three beasts.” A lot of readers I know and respect look at the ebook and other art that makes use of technology as just this kind of dreadful mutant, threatening not just to storytelling and intellectual discourse, but to civilization itself. 

Although I’m not by nature an optimist, I have more faith than that in our ability to adapt, to use our new tools to create art and stories that are profound and beautiful. And I know Laura does too, which is the reason we decided, after more than a year and a half of talking about it, to start The Chimerist. 

My posts here, like hers, will center on the iPad, but may occasionally venture in other directionsSee also: PDAs of the Ancient SumeriansWhen is a book not a book?Your cell on the subway tracks and other old posts on ebooks. 

Maud Newton