Double Fold by Nicholson Baker: Invitation to Read My Review

The Fate of Books hasn’t been very active in these last few months, but that doesn’t mean your writer wasn’t engaged in blogging. Some of you might already know the blog Astral Codex Ten (ACX; formerly known as Slate Star Codex), one of the best places online for discussions of science, history, philosophy, politics, and all other areas of nerd interest. In the beginning of the year, ACX announced a book review competition where readers could review a book of their own choice. The finalists would be posted on ACX, after which blog readers could vote for their favourites and thus determine the winner.

True to my calling, I decided to review Nicholson Baker’s Double Fold. For those unfamiliar with the book, Double Fold is an exposé of the mass destruction of books and newspapers that took place in American libraries after WWII. The main culprit is microfilm, a technology which feels hopelessly outdated today. From the 1950s down to the turn of the century, however, it was seen as a revolutionary breakthrough that would allow libraries to store huge amounts of information in a tiny space.

Unfortunately, libraries took the idea and ran with it: either they cut up their books and newspapers for microfilming and trashed the remains, or they bought microfilms elsewhere and then got rid of the redundant paper copies. At least when it comes to newspapers, this means that many 19th and 20th century papers don’t exist in the original anymore at all. All we have are blurred microfilm copies, all in black and white.

Out of more than 100 submissions, the review of Double Fold was shortlisted as one of 17 finalists, which testifies to the continuing relevance of Baker’s book. You can read and comment on the review here; there is also an audio version available here. New finalist reviews continued to be posted on ACX for several months, but now the last one has finally been made public and today the voting has begun. You can read all the finalists here (mine is #6) and vote for your favourite(s) here until the end of June. 😉 After the contest is over, I will of course also post the full review at The Fate of Books.

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