Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Paper vs. Cyberspace

How long will a blog survive? Will it remain in cyberspace long after I'm gone?

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;
'Tis strange, the shortest letter which man uses
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link
Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces
Frail man, when paper even a rag like this,
Survives himself, his tomb, and all that's his.
—George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
(Don Juan, Canto 3, stanza 88)

What lasts longer—words penned onto paper or words typed on a compute and flung into cyberspace?

I have been transcribing jpegs of Henry Brown Richardson’s 1865 letter to his parents, written while he was in the Johnson’s Island (Ohio) prison. Farrar Richardson, the great grandson of Henry, was kind enough to email me several jpegs which—when printed, cut apart, and pieced together—reveal a copy of the letter that was eventually published in a newspaper.

The letter is very long, and in it Henry explains to his abolitionist parents in Maine why he enlisted in a Louisiana regiment and fought for the South. I’ve been transcribing a column or two every so often and then putting it aside. A week or so later, I re-open the document and type in more of the letter. It’s slow-going.

Eventually I’ll write a story about how one word (Avenel) I wrote on my blog caused Farrar Richardson to find me, and how together—he in France and I in rural Virginia—we discovered a bit of a mystery and solved it. Eventually, as Farrar Richardson pieces together bits of his ancestor’s life, he will write a book about Henry.

What lasts longer—words penned onto paper or words typed on a computer and flung into cyberspace? Henry’s letter has lasted 142 years.

As for this blog, time will tell.

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Blogger CountryDew said...

The paper will last longer - but of course the ink we're using now may not last as long as the ink of old. I've run into that in my life time, having ink from some dot matrix copy just vanish, leaving white paper. I think our time in civilization will be lost because we're not bothering to notice what we're losing.

5:39 PM  

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