I'm baffled. There was a letter from LottoTeam when I got back offering a 32 Euro voucher in return for taking out a three-month subscription to the Lottery, which I naturally don't want, with all my bank account details and a blank line for a signature. No idea how they got my account details, but surely (I thought) they can't take money from my account if I don't sign anything? I now look more closely at this letter. It says they tried to reach me by telephone twice without success, and the debit for the lottery is made monthly, and they will charge me 160 Euros unless I notify them to the contrary by postcard or fax. I naturally failed to notify them to the contrary, since I was in Florida, so they have taken 160 Euros from my account. Um. Are they really allowed to take money from my account if they simply tell me they will unless I tell them not to?
Anyway, I send them a fax, and I suppose I shall have to call them, and this is stressful so I turn in my hour of need to Bremer Sprachblog. In the comments section it emerges that Anatol Stefanowitsch is considering his options. The blog was started last January as part of the Jahr der Wissenschaften; it takes a lot of time; it may not continue in its present form. Say it ain't so, Anatol, say it ain't so! (What he in fact says is that Unesco has declared 2008 the Jahr der Sprachen, so there may be a reprieve.)
All this while I am mulling over my outraged response to LottoTeam. I have a quick glance at the Guardian; they have published Doris Lessing's acceptance speech for her Nobel Prize - a speech whose nearest rival for sheer idiocy is Paul Auster's speech for the Prince of Asturias Prize earlier this year. Auster's line was that no book had ever stopped anyone from killing anyone, never saved a child's life, never changed anything, a line which, even applied only to novels, could sound plausible only to someone who had never heard of Harriet Beecher Stowe. I had thought no one could top Auster for portentous intellectual laziness; I was young and naive. Lessing begins by talking about the desperate hunger for books in Zimbabwe, moves on to the indifference to books of boys at an upmarket North London school, moves on to sweeping comments about technology:
What has happened to us is an amazing invention - computers and the internet and TV. It is a revolution. This is not the first revolution the human race has dealt with. The printing revolution, which did not take place in a matter of a few decades, but took much longer, transformed our minds and ways of thinking. A foolhardy lot, we accepted it all, as we always do, never asked: "What is going to happen to us now, with this invention of print?" In the same way, we never thought to ask, "How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by the internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?"
They say you're as old as you feel, which would make me about 963, and that was before Lessing went on to privilege books over oral composition, a move which might look plausible to anyone who a) thinks The Da Vinci Code is better value than the Iliad or b) has never come across Milman Parry's work on Homeric epic and oral composition. It's entirely possible that the book-filled mud hut of Lessing's childhood had a copy of the Iliad but missed out on Parry's classic papers in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 1930 and 1932, and entirely possible that Lessing never happened to come across developments in Homeric scholarship on leaving home, one would be rather less likely, one might think, to preserve this unselfconscious ignorance if brought up on, um, the inanities of the Internet. If you're as old as you feel then discovering that a Novel Prize acceptance speech can underperform the sort of blog post one dashes off in half an hour (without bothering to check Wikipedia) would make me about 1097.
Which might explain why I have yet to adjust to the telephone, that instrument of the Devil.