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12

S A T U R D A Y

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In The Gutenberg Elegies, literary critic Sven Birkerts asked readers to consider the effect of electronic communications on reading. I suspect, and not just because I work for a newspaper and own only a 14.4 Kbps modem, that there is something comforting about having reading material take physical form. Writing, however, is another matter. Evelyn Waugh once explained his job by saying that he just put the words down then pushed them around a bit. Nowadays, Waugh’s line is marginally less funny, because all that “pushing,” literally impossible in the days of paper-based writing, no longer seems so formidable (even if the word processor you’re using is the execrable XyWrite). I doubt whether I would have become a writer at all without the computer, and am quite certain I would have resisted to the grave becoming an editor. In editing Tolstoy’s Dictaphone: Technology and the Muse, Birkerts asked nearly 20 writers to reflect on the effect of our beloved machinery on literary life. Today, Birkerts is joined by contributors Daniel Mark Epstein and Carolyn Guyer in a sequel to the spirited discussion engendered by his last Chapters appearance. At noon at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. FREE. (202) 347-5495. (GD)