San Francisco based novelist Peter Plate came up in conversation the other night. I was at the launch of the Sara De Bondt and Fraser Muggeridge edited tome The Form of the Book at Art Words new Broadway Market shop, where I ran into some people I hadn’t seen for a while and we started rappin’ about mutual friends. None of us had been in contact with Peter Plate for a year or two and he became the focus of our conversation. While we were still in touch with him, he refused to do anything on the internet: he seemed to see it as a vehicle for police surveillance. Although it can be and is used in this way, it also has other functions and possibilities. So what happens when a contemporary writer not only refuses to use social networking platforms like Facebook and doesn’t have their own website, but won’t communicate by email? Does this give them an overview of the world as it is today, or leave them out of touch with their contemporaries? It’s probably impossible for us to judge that objectively right now, so I’ll leave it hanging… Without forgetting, of course, that Plate may not be ‘in love with today’, and might believe that being out touch with the contemporary world makes him a better writer!
What I can say is that a web search for Peter Plate didn’t turn up too much of interest: a page about Plate and his books on the site of his publisher Seven Stories, the odd review and the inevitable web book retail operations selling his stuff (plus a lot of results for other individuals who share his name). So Plate hasn’t quite disappeared, but he looks like he might join the ranks of the reforgotten. That said, I’m sure I could get a message to him via his publishers and I could almost certainly get his current home address and phone number from someone I know in London, but he isn’t easy to locate and right now doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. That said, there are other authors with several books to their name who are active on social networking sites and elsewhere on the web, but who aren’t currently represented on Wikipedia (such as Barry Graham whose entry was deleted in September 2009 for being ‘self-promoting’). My own view is that both Plate and Graham merit Wikipedia pages, but then we all know that particular platform works in mysterious and often non-rational ways….
I haven’t read Peter Plate’s more recent books, but I admire him for his hardcore stance against the net. One thing this certainly does is provide him with is more time to concentrate on his fiction. That said, personally, I enjoy engaging with the twenty-first century world and I appreciate the new horizons the web opens up, while simultaneously recognising that in its current form it certainly has some serious downsides. Does anyone know of anyone else currently active in the culture industry who has never used email or the internet?
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!