Pico Iyer on the tyranny of the moment:
As planned obsolescence moves at the speed of light -- in Japan, where I write this, the "Royal Milk Tea"-flavored KitKat I fell in love with last week is already gone from the shelves -- I sometimes think that all we hunger for is liberation from the moment, and anything that will release us from the swarming, cacophonous, surround-sound, 24/7 dictatorship of Right Now. So long as we are human, we will always long for touching that part of ourselves -- or of one another and our world -- that doesn't have a date-stamp on it.
So might books actually have a reason for being after all? A few days ago, I conducted a small experiment in my two-room apartment here in rural Japan. I spent two hours clicking through what are among the most literary and unhurried of the alternatives to books, the online versions of the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. I came away with delectable snippets of information about Richard Holbrooke, American schools and the Obama campaign. I could talk now about any of these matters of current interest at a dinner-party with three minutes' worth of wisdom. But I also felt, as I logged off, a little as I did when I worked four blocks from Times Square: wildly stimulated, excitingly up-to-the-moment, alive with ideas -- and with no time or space to hear myself think.