When the iPhone was released, my best friend, always the first to embrace technology, brought it to my house. My friends and I sat around my kitchen table playing cards and chatted about things we had always talked about since high school. Except something was different: my best friend didn’t seem to be listening. He hadn’t taken his eyes off his new toy the entire night. He was so detached from reality that it disturbed me. And that was when it hit me. My mind started wandering toward technology and how it was affecting our social psyche. My mother and sister got iPhones that very week and when I spoke at dinner to them it was to half-listening ears. My thoughts shifted to how these technologies would affect reading and paper books.
An idea planted itself in my brain: what if literature actually died? A far-fetched concept, I thought at first. I then noticed that my seventh grade students at the time were spending more time on AIM and less on their required reading, while their writing was becoming more like text messages (filled with abbreviations such as BTW, OMG, @ symbols, even replacing words with letters such as “are” with “r”) than actual prose. I watched on Jeopardy! (I am a regular viewer) how the contestants consistently failed to answer questions about literature, seemingly more than any other category. More of my friends were spending time on Facebook and Twitter and some of them, even the smartest ones, had given up reading all together.
But could a tradition that is so engrained in human life and essential to our existence – reading and writing – actually be replaced by technology? Was I crazy to try to write about something that seemd so implausible? Did that even matter if my intention was to warn what could happen if things got out of hand? I wasn’t sure how to answer those questions – so I turned to the authors of the past, and found a man who had had a similar epiphany to myself: Ray Bradbury.
In my state of uncertainty of the verisimilitude of a world without literature, I thought of Bradbury and wondered if he felt the need to reconcile these issues when writing Farenheit 451. I discovered in Amis Kingsley’s New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction a quote by Bradbury that is so striking and describes the inception of his idea in terms that are so relatable to what I was going through, that it stuck in my mind:
“Only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering….There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction.”
After reading this quote, I, of course, immediately thought of people today with smartphones.
And then I knew I had to write a satire on technology and the death of literature. I had to imbue this satire subtly through an original story, compelling and conflicted characters, and a fully-fleshed out futuristic society. And to get my message across in the most effective way, I had to create a unique intimacy with the reader. This was the book I needed to write.
And then was when I had my idea:
In a futuristic American society where all citizens have computerized chips in their brains and insert needles into their veins to enter a virtual reality, Victor Vale leads a fairly typical life. He is an officer of the law with greater ambitions, a family man, and a dutiful citizen of the Nation. Yet when The Chief assigns him a case to go undercover and expose a community of illegal “creators,” Victor finds himself strangely compelled to creative writing. For the first time, he starts to question the world around him, and becomes involved in a web of lies, uncertain of whom to trust, and unable to distinguish between virtualism and reality. As he searches for answers, Victor slowly begins to unravel hidden truths about the world, and even uncovers an astonishing secret from his own past.
In order to prove to the “creators” that he is genuine, Victor writes a manuscript, at great risk to his wife and son. When books are banned and ultimately destroyed, Victor realizes that his book alone has survived. Only then does the reader come to a startling realization in a unique narrative twist.
The Last Book Ever Written satirizes our competitive, success-driven society, foresees the effects of the economic recession, and warns what could happen if we let technology get out of hand.
Today is the publication date of The Last Book Ever Written (PanAm Books).
You can order The Last Book Ever Written here: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Book-Ever-Written/dp/1942693176/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424280252&sr=8-1&keywords=the+last+book+ever+written
April 28, 2015
When the Knicks had Patrick Ewing and Johnny Starks