The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox

Author: John Freeman
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: 2009-10-20
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The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox

“The computer and e-mail were sold to us as tools of liberation, but they have actually inhibited our ability to conduct our lives mindfully, with the deliberation and consideration that are the hallmark of true agency.”

The first e-mail was sent less than forty years ago; by 2011, there will be 3.2 billion e-mail users. The average corporate worker now receives upwards of two hundred e-mails per day. The flood of messages is ceaseless and follows us everywhere. We check e-mail in transit; we check it in the bath. We check it before bed and upon waking up. We check it even in midconversation, blithely assuming no one will notice. We no longer make our own to-do list. E-mail does.

It’s time for a break.

In The Tyranny of E-mail, John Freeman takes an entertaining look at the nature of correspondence through the ages. From love poems delivered on clay tablets to the art of the letter to the first era of information overload (via the telegraph) to the vast network brought on by the Internet, Freeman answers the difficult question, Where is this taking us?

Put down your BlackBerry and consider the consequences. As the toll of e-mail mounts by reducing our time for leisure and contemplation and by separating us from one another in an unending and lonely battle with the overfull inbox, John Freeman — one of America’s preeminent literary critics — enters a plea for communication that is more selective and nuanced and, above all, more sociable.

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