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How Instagram changes the way I look at things
As a casualty — or side benefit (is it a bug? or a feature!) — of having read and written a metric ton of poetry in college, I still read a lot of poetry these days. And it’s surprising how often you come across poets who wrote decades, centuries or millennia ago, yet grappled with issues that seem absolutely contemporary.
Like microcelebrity! Two years ago I picked up a copy of Daniel Mendelsohn’s incredibly awesome new translations of the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy. It includes this rendition of “As Much As You Can”, a poem that Cavafy wrote in 1905, but reads like he’s talking about Facebook and Instagram today.
Normally I’d reprint the poem in ASCII text, but the screengrab from Amazon’s “Look Inside” is somewhat prettier, if fuzzier. I actually put this poem up on my tumblr a year ago, but I was rereading that collection of Cavafy again today and it struck me anew — particularly the dry irony of the title, which suggests the poem will urge the reader on to excess, when it’s actually about restraining yourself.
But there’s more! Below the jump, Emily Dickinson — the patron saint of shut-ins — meditating on Kim Kardashian!
(By the way, the collection of Dickinson I have at home contains a slightly different — and more menacing — version of that poem: Instead of “they’d advertise — you know!”, it reads, “they’d banish us — you know!”)
I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better, which came out Sept. 12 this year. You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).
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