Thursday, November 05, 2009

The latest book I have finished is Digital Barbarism by Mark Helprin.

The title Digital Barbarism could cover a lot of ground, but the subtitle is "A Writer's Manifesto" and the book mainly deals with the issue of copyright, in particular the efforts of some to reduce or eliminate it in our era of digital storage.

The title gives away the fact that Helprin is against this. The book was germinated out of an op-ed piece he did promoting copyright extension, and the resulting criticism by bloggers, etc.

The book is alternately infuriating and convincing. His overall argument wins out - that copyright is a valid and valuable piece of individual rights and needs to be defended, not extinguished - but along the way there are too many ad hominem attacks, pointless pieces of memoir and misplaced anti-modernist diatribes. He also complains about being mis-represented, while mis-representing his opponents. All of this gives the book a scatter shot, disorganized and poorly thought out feeling that undermines the cogent arguments he does make.

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