How not to write in the 21st century.

By Roxanne Broda-Blake

Technology insists that we attribute everything we create. Facebook, Twitter, Formspring, Tumblr, YouTube, MySpace, Wordpress, Blogspot — each begs for our identity, image, likes and dislikes, dating interests, and favorite music. People’s lives have become works of literature, and in order to stand out, one has to demonstrate that they’re worth listening to. In effect, we’ve created a digital world full of Truman Capotes and Lord Byrons, mugging the camera and seeking attention to justify work.

The information age has diminished the beauty and simplicity of a single piece of work. Modern readers need context, scandal, and background. The age of Emily Dickinson sticking bits of genius into teacups has ended — and so has an essential aspect of writing.

I felt a surge of anticipation when J.D. Salinger died, the universal feeling of entitlement: now we can finally find out what he’s been keeping from us. But Salinger has contributed so much already. He’s done his societal duty. Let him keep his mystery and rest in peace.

If the ideal writer is not a recluse but a tabloid-gracing media whore dishing out prose like candy to children, then identity doesn’t even matter. Society has created these attention-seeking machines, and their words — which come from the same cogs and wires — mean nothing.

illustration by Mark Carey