Note from Font de Gaume (a 16,000 year old lesson in publishing technology)

Cleaning out my office this week (an excellent but horrific chore to begin the new year), I came upon a travel journal from a trip Gary and I made in 2004 to see cave paintings in southern France. I made a lot of notes the day we visited Font de Gaume, a remarkable cave filled with Magdalenian engravings and paintings from around 14 000 BC. Chisels, flints, scrapers, blades, and other items found in the cave indicate occupation since the age of the Neanderthals.

The young woman who guided the cave tour capably  chatted with the small group in French, English and German. She was incredibly knowledgeable about every inch of the cave, pointing out the transition over the centuries from crudely etched line figures and symbols to fully fleshed scenes which had been essentially airbrushed with blowpipes. Eventually there was perspective, shading, character and movement.

The tour guide said something amazingly profound, which I wrote down word for word and have never forgotten: "When Picasso comes to Font de Gaume, he is to say, 'I never did invented Cubism!' In art, there is no change in ability. Only in technology. In art, there is no evolution. Only choices."

I scrawled this down in an Oxford graph-lined notebook. Now I have a notebook computer that's roughly the same size. The tools of our trade have radically changed in the last ten years, but my reasons for writing are the same. I'm trying to make the best use of all the gadgetry without letting it distract me from the cave artist within.


jenny milchman said…
If one day we are reading our stories on the walls of a cave (again), will it be a qualitative change from reading them digitally? Has the app changed...or the experience?

Some people tell me they read faster on their Kindles. I want my children--and their children--to have the experience of utter absorption that for me is very different from the way I read anything on a screen.

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