Literary Letters, Lost in Cyberspace - New York Times

ID: Donadio (2005) PDF: (afstuderen:Donadio (2005) - Literary Letters, Lost in Cyberspace - New York Times.pdf|)

===== Summary ===== *Back in the 20th century … it was often lamented that the telephone might put an end to literary biography. In lieu of letters, writers could just as easily gab on the phone, leaving no trace. *Today, a new challenge awaits literary biographers and cultural historians: e-mail. The problem isn’t that writers and their editors are corresponding less, it’s that they’re corresponding infinitely more – but not always saving their e-mail messages. Publishing houses, magazines and many writers freely admit they have no coherent system for saving e-mail, let alone saving it in a format that would be easily accessible to scholars. *Whether writers save their e-mail seems to depend on their technical proficiency more than on any deep philosophy of preservation. *I don’t have a single early draft of any novel or story. I just ‘saved’ over the originals until I reached the final version. All there is is the books themselves.’’ *“I save some things for sentimental reasons.’’ *“I don’t save every single e-mail” *'’But I have the message from the day when they first wrote and said they LIKED the new book. Those are the criteria, pure and simple. Astonishment, joy, passion of any kind.’’ *One writer who systematically saves his e-mail is Nicholson Baker, whose book ‘‘Double Fold’’ was a cri de coeur about what is lost when libraries convert newspapers and other rare materials to microfilm. ‘‘I regret deleting things afterward, even sometimes spam,’’ Baker said. ‘‘I’ve saved almost everything, incoming and outgoing, since 1993, except for a thousand or so messages that went away after a shipping company dropped my computer. *It’s the only functioning filing system I have.’’ *[[Salman Rushdie]] is also a saver. ‘‘Yes, I have saved my e-mails, written and received since the mid-90’s when I started using computers regularly, and yes, I suppose any archive deal would include these (pretty extensive) e-mail files,’’ Rushdie said. ‘‘I e-mail a lot, so there’s all sorts of stuff there, but don’t ask me to remember what it is. *external hard drive, *This must be music to the ears of Rushdie’s agent ….who said. ‘‘I foresee volumes of e-mail correspondence that are frankly far more interesting than the traditional selection of written letters.’’ *Libraries are looking to the National Archives for guidance. In the coming weeks, the archives expect to award a contract to a company to develop a system that would preserve e-mail correspondence and other electronic records ‘‘free from dependency on any specific hardware or software, potentially forever,’’ *The National Archives still have to sift through 32 million e-mail messages from the Clinton White House alone.