The Contrarian

Gay Talese vs. e-mail

"Technology makes everything too easy. Take e-mail, for instance: I don't have it and I don't want it. It's a linear system devoid of nuance, all about cost-cutting and pragmatism. E-mail is designed solely to be purposeful, saying, 'You don't have to be in China to do the deal, to get the story—you can be in your bathroom, sitting on the toilet!' That purposefulness obliterates subtlety.

"I want to be forced to get on a plane, travel to a place, watch eye movements, hear voices, see faces, notice gestures and expressions. I'll go halfway around the world to meet a subject I want to write about, and eighty percent of what I find out is waste. But that twenty percent cannot be realized without the dispersing of the eighty percent. We're an overcommunicated society, making a great deal of our communication meaningless. E-mail allows us to be in constant contact, but to what end?"

Gay Talese's sixth book, A Writer's Life, was published by Knopf in April.