Wednesday, August 23, 2017

TRAVELING LIGHT.

The Village Voice stopped putting out paper editions this week. There's a lovely roundup at Esquire in which several old Voice hands pour one out.

No one asked me (nor mentioned my name THANKS PALS) but I'll speak to it anyway. I think Michael Musto made a good point --
I'm old enough to remember when computers came around and people felt there was something lost in communing with your typewriter. I don't think anybody now wishes they had their old typewriter back. A lot of times we cling on to old habits because they're familiar and it's hard to adapt, but ultimately we don't look back with a lot of longing about old archaic ways of doing things.
It's also true, as Christgau says, "Ten years ago everyone believed that the Kindle was going to kill the book. It didn't. Walk into the Strand Book Store. Books are not dead." But that's because books have proved out, as it were -- people keep reading them because they've seen the alternative and still prefer them. Paper-paper editions, on the other hand, aren't getting the same kind of play. Kindle-swiping and -tapping is a paltry thing next to the oceanic thrill of 80,000 words nestled in your hands, but once you learn to focus on a tiny screen the average New Republic or New York Times article doesn't lose much from digital transfer. So periodical paper, glossy or newsprint, is going away.

Regular readers will know I'm sentimental about the old things, particularly the old New York things. Growing up in Bridgeport, I cherished the weekly Voice as a dispatch from the world I wanted to get to; when I got there, I became one of those Village habitu├ęs waiting on Tuesday nights by the newsstand at Cooper Square to get the Voice for the job and apartment listings, or to see if my band got a Voice Choice. I did read the thing, too, and took it seriously enough to send in letters -- which they took seriously, too; I remember spending a half-hour on the phone with an editor who wanted to make sure his cuts to my stupid letter were acceptable to me. (They didn't do that at the Times.) When I got the chance to write for them, I took a big pay cut to take it and didn't flinch, because a call from the Voice was a call of duty -- maybe fancy-pants editorial professionals turned their noses up at it, but shit-ass urban poetasters like me answered the summons and joined the few, the proud, the mercilessly exploited. To do otherwise would be unpatriotic.

And still I serve -- at least so far as I know: maybe when I file next Sunday I'll get a note back saying, oh yeah, forgot to mention, like I did in 2014. If I don't, I'll get to work on the next one. One reason the fall of the paper-paper doesn't faze me is because I've been ploughing my furrow digital-only for years now -- as have a few others who, unless things really go south, will be on the unprinted page with me. They're part of the great tradition, too, even if the new Villagers are thumbing phones and pads for our words rather than waiting on the Square to buy them in a parcel.

Maybe you think the death of print means "the death of the Village Voice." Go on ahead, honey. We hear this every time some big bad thing happens -- like when Murdoch took over, and when Stern took over, and when so-and-so left and when so-and-so came back; eppur si muove. Even if the thing's a Flying Dutchman, I'm still at my post and ready for the next adventure.

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