Digital Barbarians: A Writer’s Manifesto

Mark Helprin, Author . Collins $24.99 (232p) ISBN 978-0-06-173311-6

Noted novelist and journalist Helprin (Winter’s Tale ) wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in 2007 arguing for an extension of the term of copyright. In response, he received 750,000 caustic, often vulgar e-mails from those he calls the anticopyright movement—a mostly vague cabal led, apparently, by law professor Lawrence Lessig, and whose house organ is the “Chronicle of [Supposedly] Higher Education.” Now Helprin gets his revenge with a splenetic riposte that veers from a passionate defense of authors’ rights and the power of the individual voice to a misanthropic attack on a debased America populated by “Slurpee-sucking geeks,” “beer-drinking dufuses” and “mouth-breathing morons in backwards baseball caps and pants that fall down.” We’re treated to his views on everything from tax policy and airport security to the self-regard of academic literary critics. Drowning in this ocean of bile is a defense of authors’ right to control their work and defend its integrity against appropriation and distortion by others, and an examination of the historical and legal basis of copyright offered in elegant prose and with a rapier-sharp wit. But Helprin’s pugnacity may repel even those who agree that copyright is a “bulwark of civilization.” (May)

Reviewed on: 04/06/2009
Release date: 04/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
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