this space intentionally left blank

May 26, 2010

Filed under: culture»internet

The Classics

Most book-lovers, I think, have a shelf devoted to their favorite books. It's always half-empty, because those are also the books they lend out when someone asks for a recommendation--oh, you haven't read something by X? Here you go. I love that shelf, even if I rarely lend books: it's where the private activity of reading becomes a shared experience, either through borrowing or via representation: these are the books that have deeply affected me. Maybe they'll affect you, too.

Likewise, there is writing on the Internet that is classic: essays, articles, and fiction that get linked and re-linked over time, in defiance of the conventional wisdom that online writing is transient or short-lived. The Classics are a personal call: what goes on your mental shelf of great online writing won't be the same as mine, and that's okay. This post is a collection of the items that I consider must-reads, accumulated over years of surfing. As I dig stuff out of my memory, I'll keep adding more.

  • Flathead, by Matt Taibbi: the definitive critique of Thomas Friedman. Everything you need to know about one of the world's worst pundits.
  • Creating The Innocent Killer, by John Kessel: an evisceration of Orson Scott Card's manipulative, deceptive Ender novels.
  • Host, by David Foster Wallace. A lengthy profile of radio host John Ziegler, not to mention a brilliant example of hypertextual footnotes.
  • The Zompist Phrasebook, edited by Mark Rosenfelder: the last language phrasebook you'll ever need.
  • The Rhetoric of the Hyperlink, by Venkatesh Rao: essential reading for people going from print to online.
  • The Grim Meathook Future, by Josh Ellis: there are problems with this essay if it's taken straight, as Ellis found out when he presented it to an international hackers' conference. But as a short, punchy antidote to techno-utopian thinking--a way to puncture the silicon valley bubble--I think it's invaluable.

Future - Present - Past