Posted by: Yorgos | January 5, 2010

Text 38 – The Cultural Pyramid

I recently read on/in The Guardian (what preposition should I use for a website of a newspaper?) this article about the impressions Cormac McCarthy had of the movie “The Road”. I’ve read the book and enjoyed it a lot (if enjoy is a verb you can use for a book so bleak and blunt) and will probably see the movie as well (at some point), but this is not why I am writing this post.

I found really interesting the fact that both the screenwriter and the director were in awe in front of one of the most important authors of the past decades. Accomplished professionals in their respective fields were afraid as much as they were respectful of the author.

This got me thinking: In an age where the book does not seem to be in the center of cultural activity, the author as a figure remains at the top of this cultural food chain, above composers, playwrights, directors and so on. The book is not as strong now as it has been for the past few centuries. It will probably never vanish, but it doesn’t have the impact it used to have; we need the moving image now to be informed and motivated, be it a documentary or a movie, which could (on a related issue) be a part of the general cultural poverty we witness every day.

In the end, however, we may not read books, but we certainly respect the author, especially if we are aware of how the various cultural products are produced. Perhaps it is the loneliness of the effort, the absurdity of the accomplishment or just the remains of the myth of the book as the container of all knowledge. It seems to me that in the world of electronics, the book can be a symbol of learning more than an actual medium of it (unfortunately). But if the book is (just) a symbol, what does that make its author? Why is he still the pinnacle of the cultural pyramid? Can she/he be some kind of meta-symbol?

I have no answers, only thoughts, but I can say that this is not the post of a pessimist. It shows that we haven’t forgotten how we got here in the first place: through books and the genius of their authors. We may have other means to transmit information now, but we haven’t forgotten where we come from.

And it also means that the supposed Death of the Author never really occurred.


  1. What an interesting point you make. I agree: without the original idea, the story, the poem, the song, the ‘little fish’ as Virginia Woolf has it, there would be no ‘cultural food chain.’

    I am no theorist but in my opinion the author can never die.

    Happy reading, then. Till the very last day.

    And it is a pleasure reading you.


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