In an article published in The Guardian last week, Jonathan Franzen lamented our “media-saturated, technology-crazed, apocalypse-haunted historical moment” while praising the kindred spirit he'd found in the early-20th-century Viennese cultural critic Karl Kraus, who diagnosed similar problems in his own age. That article was an excerpt of Franzen's new book, a collection of Kraus' essays translated and extensively annotated by Franzen, which we just received.
In his own day, Kraus' magazine Die Fackel (The Torch) was religiously read by all the leading intelligentsia, including Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin. He was also notoriously cantankerous, and a vociferous critic of mass media, consumerism, and the mechanization of society. “The most impressive thing about Kraus as a thinker,” writes Franzen, “may be how early and clearly he recognized the divergence of technological progress from moral and spiritual progress.”
Whether or not you hate the internet as much as Jonathan Franzen (who could?), there's plenty of food for thought to be had between these pages. Check this glowing review from the Los Angeles Review of Books for more info:
"If Kraus’s views about modernity and especially about technology have something to say to us (despite expressing his fear of overstating the parallels, Franzen believes they bear significantly on our own cultural and technological moment), they seem to fly in the face of one of our biggest assumptions: that technology unleashes our creative sides. This belief is so prevalent in our culture that it has become both a cliché and a practice, which is why we see it manifesting itself in everything from Apple commercials and apps to our classrooms — without appearing to give anyone pause"