I am an 'old-fashioned' author, not anti-technology (I love my Sony Vaio... it has a BIG screen!), but in the sense of being deeply committed both to books as objects for treasuring and to the tactile power of the written word. To me no thrill can ever replace the beauty of a smooth, plump hand-addressed envelope landing on my door mat: running one's finger under the flap, relishing the knowledge that the words and thoughts committed to the page(s) inside have taken that extra care and effort necessitated by the absence of a delete button. I like writing letters for the same reason: the pleasure of the pen in my hand, the flow of ink across a clean page, the way one's thoughts focus on the person for whom the words are intended, not just in the act of writing,but also in the sealing, the stamp-hunting and the tramp to the post box. By its very essence, this labour constitutes a form of compliment to the recipient. And it is no coincidence, surely, that condolences are still, for the most part, written the old-fashioned way. Sorrow deserves a weight that only pen and paper can supply. As do some joys: a heartfelt thank-you, the birth of a child, a wedding.
So, while cooperating with the technological revolution - and indeed trying to capitalise on it - I tweet! I blog! I have a facebook page! - I have for a while now been harbouring a general sadness about what I perhaps lazily regarded as the demise of the written word. Until it dawned on me that there is nothing to mourn. For, not only are all modes of correspondence still available - an expanding feast of electronic options being added to the more traditional ones - but the written word itself has never been less under threat. Indeed, it is proliferatin... unning rampant like that Japanese pond weed we are supposed to be afraid of. Texts, emails, tweets, ipads, social networking sites, chat rooms, online clubs, blogs... As a writer, I am aware of never having been under greater pressure to produce sentence-fodder beyond the delivery of an actual novel. But it's not just writers, it's everyone. Words, words words. The entire human race is feverishly writing, more messages, more letters, more opinions, more news. Perhaps, one day soon, it will be the health of the spoken word that we are worried about.