Old Writers, New Media

August 30, 2011 | 5

Which convergence between classic author and modern technology is more off-putting: the University of Virginia’s William Faulkner recordings, or this YouTube video of Leo Tolstoy sawing wood?

works on special projects for The Millions. He lives in Baltimore and he frequents dive bars. His interests can be followed on his Tumblr, Nick Recommends and Twitter, @nemoran3.


  1. I found the intersection between modern technology and classical authors a bit off-putting, for lack of better phrasing. It’s incongruous, to me, to see one of the great Russian writers on YouTube, a medium I associate most often with videos of people’s cats. The Faulkner recordings are a bit less bizarre in that respect.

  2. I can see your point but it is because the video isn’t of cats that I’m glad it is there. Although the video exists on YouTube now, it was initially filmed during Tolstoy’s lifetime (as the Faulkner recordings were done during his). Without the internet, I’d have to travel to Virginia to hear Faulkner. I’d have to track down the documentary containing the Tolstoy footage (if I even knew it existed) and get it through Interlibrary Loan or something. It’s the resurrection of talent from the past, faint glimmers though they may be in the darkness of cat videos, that makes YouTube worthwhile.

  3. You won’t hear any disagreement from me.

    My off-the-cuff remark was referring to how substantial content is harder to find on the internet than, say, a video of Maru the Cat. Takes more digging, or a better curator. For all its charms and potential, the internet (like many other things) often buries its gems beneath troves of trivial novelties.

  4. But you’re right to point out that “off-putting” was sloppy phrasing on my part. I usually write these Curiosities before I’ve had my coffee.

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