| Hidden Within Technology’s Empire, a Republic of Letters
When I was a boy “discovering literature”, I used to think how wonderful it would be if every other person on the street were familiar with Proust and Joyce or T. E. Lawrence or Pasternak and Kafka. Later I learned how refractory to high culture the democratic masses were. Lincoln as a young frontiersman read Plutarch, Shakespeare and the Bible. But then he was Lincoln.
Later when I was traveling in the Midwest by car, bus and train, I regularly visited small-town libraries and found that readers in Keokuk, Iowa, or Benton Harbor, Mich., were checking out Proust and Joyce and even Svevo and Andrei Biely. D. H. Lawrence was also a favorite. And sometimes I remembered that God was willing to spare Sodom for the sake of 10 of the righteous. Not that Keokuk was anything like wicked Sodom, or that Proust’s Charlus would have been tempted to settle in Benton Harbor, Mich. I seem to have had a persistent democratic desire to find evidences of high culture in the most unlikely places.
后来，我坐小车、巴士和火车在中西部旅行，经常走访小镇图书馆；发现在衣阿华州基奥卡克市，或者密歇根州本顿港市，读者们借阅普鲁斯特和乔伊斯的作品，甚 至还有斯维沃@和安德烈?别雷?的著作。D. H.劳伦斯的书也深受欢迎。有时我会想起上帝愿为十个义人而饶恕所多玛城的故事^并非基奧卡克市和邪恶的所多玛有何相似之处，也并非普鲁斯特笔下的夏吕斯 ?想移居密西根州的本顿港，只不过我似乎一直有一种开明的想法，希望在最难觅高雅文化的地方找到高雅文化的证据。
For many decades now I have been a fiction writer, and from the first I was aware that mine was a questionable occupation. In the 1930’s an elderly neighbor in Chicago told me that he wrote fiction for the pulps. “The people on the block wonder why I don’t go to a job, and I’m seen puttering around, trimming the bushes or painting a fence instead of working in a factory. But I’m a writer. I sell to Argosy and Doc Savage,” he said with a certain gloom. “They wouldn’t call that a trade.” Probably he noticed that I was a bookish boy, likely to sympathize with him, and perhaps he was trying to warn me to avoid being unlike others. But it was too late for that.
至今，我已写了几十年小说，而且一开始就意识到，这是个颇有争议的职业。20世纪30年代，芝加哥一位年长的邻居告诉我，他给通俗杂志写小说。"街坊邻里 都纳闷，为什么不去上班，却见我游来荡去，修剪修剪树木，粉刷粉刷篱笆，就是不去工厂干活儿。可我是作家啊，稿子卖给《大商船》和《萨维奇医生》⑦那些杂 志，"他说话时神情有些抑郁。"他们不会把这当作正事儿。"他很可能已经觉察到，我是个喜欢读书的孩子，兴许会与他产生共鸣，或者他想提醒我，不要与众不 同，但这为时已晚。
From the first, too, I had been warned that the novel was at the point of death, that like the walled city or the crossbow, it was a thing of the past. And no one likes to be at odds with history. Oswald Spengler, one of the most widely read authors of the early 30’s, taught that our tired old civilization was very nearly finished. His advice to the young was to avoid literature and the arts and to embrace mechanization and become engineers.
In refusing to be obsolete, you challenged and defied the evolutionist historians. I had great respect for Spengler in my youth, but even then I couldn’t accept his conclusions, and (with respect and admiration) I mentally told him to get lost.
Sixty years later, in a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal, I come upon the old Spenglerian argument in a contemporary form. Terry Teachout, unlike Spengler, does not dump paralyzing mountains of historical theory upon us, but there are signs that he has weighed, sifted and pondered the evidence.
He speaks of our “atomized culture,” and his is a responsible, up-to-date and carefully considered opinion. He speaks of “art forms as technologies.” He tells us that movies will soon be “downloadable”—that is, transferable from one computer to the memory of another device—and predicts that films will soon be marketed like books. He predicts that the near-magical powers of technology are bringing us to the threshold of a new age and concludes, “Once this happens, my guess is that the independent movie will replace the novel as the principal vehicle for serious storytelling in the 21st century.”
他谈到了我们的"原子化文化"，观点新颖可靠，并经过深思熟虑，谈到了 "作为技术的艺术形式"，告诉我们，电影很快就"可以下载"，即从一台电脑转入另一存储设备。他还预测，电影不久会如书籍般销售。他预言近乎魔法的技术之 力将把我们引入一个新时代，并得出结论："一旦这成为现实，我猜想，独立电影会替代小说，成为21世纪严肃故事叙述的主要载体。"
In support of this argument, Mr. Teachout cites the ominous drop in the volume of book sales and the great increase in movie attendance: “For Americans under the age of 30, film has replaced the novel as the dominant mode of artistic expression.” To this Mr. Teachout adds that popular novelists like Tom Clancy and Stephen King “top out at around a million copies per book,” and notes, “The final episode of NBC’s ‘Cheers,’ by contrast, was seen by 42 million people.”
为了支持这一观点，蒂奇奥特先生指出，图书销量不幸下降，而电影观众却大幅上升。"对30岁以下的美国人来说，电影已经取代小说，成为艺术表达的首要模 式。"蒂奇奥特先生补充道，汤姆?克兰西和斯蒂芬?金@等畅销小说家"每本书最多也就卖到一百万册左右，"还说，"相比之下，全国广播公司的《欢乐酒 店》*的最后一集，观众达4200万之多。"
On majoritarian grounds, the movies win. “The power of novels to shape the national conversation has declined,” says Mr. Teachout. But I am not at all certain that in their day “Moby-Dick” or “The Scarlet Letter” had any considerable influence on “the national conversation.” In the mid-19th century it was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” that impressed the great public. “Moby-Dick” was a small-public novel.
The literary masterpieces of the 20th century were for the most part the work of novelists who had no large public in mind. The novels of Proust and Joyce were written in a cultural twilight and were not intended to be read under the blaze and dazzle of popularity.
Mr. Teachout’s article in The Journal follows the path generally taken by observers whose aim is to discover a trend. “According to one recent study 55 percent of Americans spend less than 30 minutes reading anything at all…. It may even be that movies have superseded novels not because Americans have grown dumber but because the novel is an obsolete artistic technology.”
“We are not accustomed to thinking of art forms as technologies,” he says, “but that is what they are, which means they have been rendered moribund by new technical developments.”
Together with this emphasis on technics that attracts the scientific-minded young, there are other preferences discernible: It is better to do as a majority of your contemporaries are doing, better to be one of millions viewing a film than one of mere thousands reading a book. Moreover, the reader reads in solitude, whereas the viewer belongs to a great majority; he has powers of numerosity as well as the powers of mechanization. Add to this the importance of avoiding technological obsolescence and the attraction of feeling that technics will decide questions for us more dependably than the thinking of an individual, no matter how distinctive he may be.
文章除了强调崇尚科学的年轻人有吸引力的技术之外，还看得见其他一些取向。如大多数同时代人做什么，你最好就做什么，与其和区区数千人一样读一本书，不如 和几百万人一样看一场电影。另外，读者只是独自阅读北京翻译公司，而观众却是与许多人共赏，既借机械技术之力，又得人数众多之势。不妨还可以补充说，避免技术上落伍也 很重要，而人们总觉得就解决问题而言，不管个人有多么出众，技术要比个人的思想更可靠。这种感觉也很有吸引力。