A writer, I think, is someone who pays attention to the world. That means trying to understand, take in, connect with, what wickedness human beings are capable of; and not be corrupted – made cynical, superficial – by this understanding.
Literature can tell us what the world is like.
Literature can give us standards and pass on deep knowledge, incarnated in language, in narrative.
Literature can train, and exercise, our ability to weep for those who are not us or ours.
At the institute, we often describe the “book” as both a vessel (technology) and text (information) especially as we work on revising our mission statement. Even so, and only speaking for myself, it is still very easy to get caught up in things like networks, copyright policy, and Web 2.0, which are, of course, all important topics. Sontag’s quote is a good reminder of not just what resides in the vessel of the book, but why its contents are valuable.