The Immediate

A Classics course I once took ended with the professor arguing that “great books keep us from being seduced by the urgency of the immediate.”

That phrase stuck with me. Whenever I see a hysterical New York Post cover, a ridiculous advertisement, or a blimp advertising off-world colonies, I think of that phrase.

I assumed this was about the past versus the present. What hoary advice, though, does it give about the immediate future?

What happens during reading. A subject for students, yes, but an underexposed one, generally.The Pleasure of the Text. There’s nothing but the immediate: what we’re doing now.

What happens after reading. We’ve forgotten most of what we’ve ever read, drawing instead from a knowledge base, subconscious, subverbal; a personal, internally motivated rudder that steers a “less urgent” immediate. That’s what Prof was advocating for.

The idea of a book “following through” with a reader, even after the book is over, is a current one.

The drive is to deploy applications and devices to establish that community and loyalty, and measure it. The relationships are difficult to track, monetize, and we covet the metadata for them.

Convergences: great books and the future, culture and marketing. When the terabytes of data are used as a complement to how a book itself can contribute meaningfully to a reader’s “personal culture,” during and after reading.

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