All of us are “the last generation” to live in a certain kind of world. Those of us born around the beginning of the Second World War were, as Michael Gruber points out in his novel Tropic of Night, the last to experience segregation of the races, the last to come to sexual maturity before women’s lib and the “Pill.” the “last to believe that the United States was invariably the good guy, last to get the full load of dead white male culture force-fed into their brains and souls, last to grow up before TV….”
I was born January 18, 1942, a little over a month after Pearl Harbor, into a world where trains were still used for transportation, where Morse Code and the telegraph were still used for communication, where bank deposits and withdrawals were still recorded by hand in a little book. The world I was born into had no nuclear weapons, no Sputniks, no violated moon.
Mine was the last generation to live without sophisticated computers, although, amazingly, the generation that followed was born into a world that did not yet have email (created in 1972), or the internet (a term first used in 1974), or the world-wide-web, the famous “www” we all bow to daily (which only arrived in 1992).
What must my grandparents have felt? My maternal grandfather was a horse-and-buggy doctor. My paternal grandfather was a Quaker blacksmith. Both were born before electricity, before radio, before the automobile, the airplane, and even before the Revenue Act of 1913 that established income tax.
I subscribe to a half-dozen magazines and I purchase a lot of books each year. I bemoan the loss of the printed word while at the same time I praise (and daily use) the new technology.
A few days ago I purchased Tim Leffel’s new book, Travel Writing, as an inexpensive download (254 pages). Five minutes after the purchase I was reading it (and I paid only a third the price of the print version…not including shipping).
Leffel warns writers that the old world of journalism is rapidly disappearing and we must, like it or not, learn to live in the new world of journalism. He writes, “We are in the midst of a major transformation, one not seen since the mass adoption of television.”
Here are some dramatic events Leffel lists from just last year and this year:
And remember, Leffel’s list is just for last year and this year!
Lecturing at a Colorado university last September I asked a young audience of perhaps forty people how many had ever received a hand-written love letter. One lovely hand went up, but then seeing no other hands, quickly dropped back down.
Enough of this. It’s time for me to put a favorite fountain pen to work.