When did 'Find' replace 'Look'?
An Entire Post Written Without Using
One Link, and Googling Only One Fact
One Link, and Googling Only One Fact
Do you know the writer Frederick Pohl?
In our house, in 1979, we had a very worn, paperback copy of one of his collections. This one had a blue cover and contained stories he wrote in the 1950s, mostly.
Google reminds me very much of one of my favorite stories in that collection; "The Tunnel Under the World", in which, "an entire community's memory is intentionally wiped out each night", so that advertising researchers might test-market to a collective tabula rasa.
I loved that story.
I still love that story. I never forgot it, or the (eerily prophetic) warning it sent. But I did forget the title. I had to Search for the title of that story.
Years ago, before online search—or Facebook, or Skype, or email, or answering machines—here's what I would have done in trying to remember the title of that story:
First, I would have called my mother, on the phone, to ask her if she remembered the book. I'd call twice, because she didn't answer the first time. I wouldn't know where she was or what she was doing, just that she must be out (or in the laundry room?) because she didn't answer although I let it ring 15 times.
When I finally reach her that day (she was at the store, and she found the cutest leather jacket for my nephew, whose birthday is Saturday, and did I get the invite and did I RSVP?) and after she stopped talking about my nephew's party I'd say, Remember mom, it had a blue cover? Really thick. It was on the shelf in the toy room. Oh, right, she would say. I think that was one of the books Anthony got from Charles.
I might call my cousin Charles next, to see if he remembers the title of the great story from the terrific book he gave my brother Anthony, who we call Tony, and who loves science-fiction, and comics, and heroes. But I don't bother calling my brother because it's 4 o'clock and I know he's still at work.
And, well...Charles is my oldest cousin. I love him but we don't really talk on the phone. Besides, he lives in Syracuse and I can't afford the long distance call.
So, on my lunch hour, I might go to a used bookstore.
I might wander over to the Strand at 13th Street (or 11th street?) and 4th Ave and talk to the guy who who stocks the sci-fi shelves. I think his name is Danny. He just moved in with his girlfriend and he might ask me what to expect the first year, because he knows I lived with my boyfriend before we married. He helps me look for the book and we don't find that collection of Pohl, but two others, which I buy and then Danny says Wait, I'll call Tom at Coliseum. Tom doesn't have it either and I go home.
I never learn the title of the story I loved, or find the collection it was in. But I talk to my mother and Danny and think to call my brother, later that night, and I mail one of the books I did buy to my cousin Charles, with a note that says "Saw this book and thought of you."
That book was precious to me, and those stories. I wish I could find it.
When I go looking for it online I'll find it immediately—and have it shipped to my house within three days.
But I won't find the stains on the cover, or the binding that's ripped, or my brother, or Danny and his girlfriend, or the light from the hallway, which I used to read this (and other, forbidden books) late into the night. I won't find the connections to the people who encouraged me to read and to love reading, or to be curious about the world, and who taught me to value that story and others like it, in the first place.
Digital treasure hunts are doing more than stripping me of my ability, or desire, to remember. They are stripping the context of my life away.
I no longer go looking. Now, I simply find.
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