John Freeman

An erstwhile SW contributor, today the editor of Granta, Freeman argues against being so constantly connected in The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox (Scribner, $25). It's a short book, as befits a form of correspondence that, Freeman argues, should be brief and well-considered. Most of us send too much e-mail. Most of us receive too much e-mail. Yet none of us wants to admit we're part of the problem. Tyranny is part history book (e-mail is 40 years old? Who knew?), part Strunk & White, and part business advice book. It's also a companion volume to Viktor Mayer-Schonberger's Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, since both remind us of the (sometimes necessary) perishability of information; that face-to-face interactions are almost always more productive. Cranking through e-mail on your iPhone or BlackBerry makes you feel productive, says Freeman, as if you're attentive to everything. But, he cautions, "If we waste [attention] on frivolous communication, we will have nothing left when we finally need it." BRIAN MILLER

Mon., Oct. 26, 7 p.m., 2009

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