A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.
Monday, September 22, 2008
NICHOLSON BAKER'S "DOUBLEFOLD"
To the best of my knowledge, "Doublefold" is a book written for the bibliophile, the geek that geeks out with the history of books, reading, and materials. So far, one of the strongest arguments that the books makes is that libraries, both academic and public, in their haste to push the use of microfiche have pursued a policy of discarding and trashing valuable, often one of a kind, copies of old newspapers like New York's Herald Tribune and New York World.
And the way that they have done is by spreading vicious rumors. And one of these rumors is that newspaper paper does not hold up to the passing of years. Experts promised that newspapers would crumble, but they didn't, “the originals didn’t crumble into dust. Keyes Metcalf, a microfilm pioneer and the director of the libraries at Harvard, in 1941 predicted that the 'total space requirements' of research libraries 'will be reduced by paper disintegration.' Then five, ten, twenty years went by, and the paper―even the supposedly ephemeral newsprint―was still there. So librarians began getting rid of it anyway. If you destroy the physical evidence, nobody will know how skewed your predictions were” (2001, pg. 6). In other words, librarians spread the rumor that the paper wouldn't last and voila it became incontrovertible fact.
I found more interesting the beef described by Nicholson between Hearst and Pulitzer which was actually facilitated by an innovation in publishing, "The arrival of the brothers Pagenstecher, who in the eighteen-sixties imported a German machine that shredded logs to pulp by jamming their ends against a circular, water-colled grinding stone, brought prices way down―from twelve cents a pound in 1870, to seven cents a pound in 1880, to less than two cents a pound in 1900…The drop gave Pulitzer and Hearst the plentiful page space to sell big ads, and allowed their creations to flower into the gaudy painted ladies they had become by the first decade of the twentieth century.” (2001, pg. 6)
More importantly, the tendency here has been to throw away and not preserve, even though the preservation of these newspapers would probably create a comparable amount of revenue. Is it short sightedness? Is it evolution? For now it is hard to say but I am leaning towards a little short sightedness tempered with evolution with a little bit of snobbery thrown in for good measure.