Hamlet’s Blackberry

May 19, 2013 at 2:29 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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William Powers in his provocative, accessible book Hamlet’s Blackberry (Scribe, 2010), relates what happened while he was leaning from his boat to disentangle a propeller blade from a piece of rope mooring another boat to the jetty: he fell in to the water – splash! After some floundering and embarrassing moments he climbed back up to his boat and turned out his pockets. His mobile was in there. It was now dead. Absolutely dead.
At first he was angry and panicked. He was freelance and his clients needed to be able to call him. But pretty soon the initial frustrated rage was replaced by a strange sense of elation, a feeling of expansive freedom such as he had not felt in a long, long time. No one knew where he was. He breathed deeply of the sea air; he was in a beautiful place surrounded by water on a sunny day, and nobody knew where he was!
It started him thinking about the possible dangers of our contemporary state of being constantly connected to everyone everywhere. I am only a quarter through but so far I am impressed with this author’s reasoning and his lucid writing. We are too connected and it does our emotional and physical health much good to have regular breaks from being digitally connected. For depth and fulfilment we need to have time when we are alone and concentrating on one thing, and without the possibility of being interrupted by phone calls or emails or Facebook etc.
With that advice in mind, this blog entry will be brief – to allow more time for me to read, to write, to think! I’m going to conclude with the contents of two telegrams I heard about long ago. A fortnight ago I related Robert Hughes’ funny mock telegram about a looming deadline. I have two other favourites. The first is about the Algonquin Group, the famous group of American writers including Dorothy Parker and Richard Benchley – Richard? The father of the guy who wrote Jaws, I think that was the one) – anyway, they used to regularly meet in the Algonquin room in New York, and one of them went overseas for the first time. He bade them farewell and set off on his journey, and the first place he visited was Venice.
(I don’t know the technical reason but they couldn’t do punctuation so they used to put STOP for a fullstop.)
Another one, surely apocryphal, was that prankster in a high position in his town sent the five most highly respected, posh pillars of the community a telegram one evening, stating simply: ALL HAS BEEN REVEALED STOP FLEE!
And the following morning, four of the five had left town.
Somehow I can’t see texting ever achieving the satirical scope that composers of telegrams were sometimes capable of.

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