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The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inboxby John Freeman
Synopses & Reviews
andlt;Bandgt;The award-winning president of the National Book Critics Circle examines the astonishing growth of emailand#8212;and how it is changing our lives, not always for the better.andlt;/Bandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Johnandnbsp; Freemanandnbsp; isandnbsp; oneandnbsp; ofandnbsp; Americaand#8217;sandnbsp; pre-eminentandnbsp; literary critics; now in this, his first book, he presents an elegant and erudite investigation into a technology that has revolutionized the way we work, communicate, and even think.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Thereand#8217;s no question that email is an explosive phenomenon. The first email, developed for military use, was sent less than forty years ago; by 2011, there will be 3.2 billion users. The average corporate employee now receives upwards of 130 emails per day; by 2009 that number is expected to reach nearly 200. And the flood of messages is ceaseless: for increasing numbers of people, email means work now occupies home time as well as office hours.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Drawing extensively on the research of linguists, behavioral scientists, cultural critics, and philosophers, Freeman examines the way email is taking a mounting toll on a variety of behavior, reducing time for leisure and contemplation, despoiling subtlety and expression in language, and separating us from each other in the unending and lonely battle with the overfull inbox. He enters a plea for communication which is slower, more nuanced, and, above all, more sociable.
"We've all experienced the 'tyranny of e — mail': the endless onslaught, the continual distraction, the superfluous messages clogging our inboxes. Freeman, acting editor of Granta magazine, captures viscerally 'the buzzing, humming megalopolis' that 'tunes into this techno-rave of send and receive, send and receive.' And he draws effectively on psychological and social research to describe the harm this 'tsunami' of e-mail is causing: fragmenting our days, fracturing our concentration, diverting us from other sources of information and face-to-face encounters. Freeman is best when he is on point. But when he drifts into history — granted, to make the salient point that this feeling of life speeding out of control overwhelmed people with the arrival of the railroad and the telegraph (though, strangely, he omits the telephone, our e-mail enabler) — he offers more postal and telegraphic details than most people will want and hammers his main points into the ground (e.g., we need to be needed, and receiving e-mail gratifies that need). But his closing 'manifesto for a slow communication movement' could fuel an e-mail rebellion, and his tips on how to slow down are sensible and mostly doable, except perhaps for the most hard-core e-mail addicts." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The award-winning former president of the National Book Critics Circle traces a short history of people's need for correspondence and examines the astonishing growth of e-mail--how it is changing lives, but not always for the better.
The computer and e-mail were sold to us as tools of liberation, but they have actually inhibited our ability to conduct our lives mindfully, with the deliberation and consideration that are the hallmark of true agency.
The first e-mail was sent less than forty years ago; by 2011, there will be 3.2 billion e-mail users. The average corporate worker now receives upwards of two hundred e-mails per day. The flood of messages is ceaseless and follows us everywhere. We check e-mail in transit; we check it in the bath. We check it before bed and upon waking up. We check it even in midconversation, blithely assuming no one will notice. We no longer make our own to-do list. E-mail does.
It's time for a break.
In The Tyranny of E-mail, John Freeman takes an entertaining look at the nature of correspondence through the ages. From love poems delivered on clay tablets to the art of the letter to the first era of information overload (via the telegraph) to the vast network brought on by the Internet, Freeman answers the difficult question, Where is this taking us?
Put down your BlackBerry and consider the consequences. As the toll of e-mail mounts by reducing our time for leisure and contemplation and by separating us from one another in an unending and lonely battle with the overfull inbox, John Freeman — one of America's preeminent literary critics — enters a plea for communication that is more selective and nuanced and, above all, more sociable.
About the Author
JOHN FREEMAN is an award-winning writer and book critic who has written for numerous publications, including andlt;iandgt;The New York Times Book Reviewandlt;/iandgt;, the andlt;iandgt;Los Angeles Timesandlt;/iandgt;, andlt;iandgt;The Guardianandlt;/iandgt;, and andlt;iandgt;The Wall Street Journalandlt;/iandgt;. Freeman won the 2007 James Patterson PageTurner Award. He is the editor-in-chief of Granta and andnbsp;lives in New York City.
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