Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age

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“A brilliant and thoughtful handbook for the Internet age.” —Bob Woodward

“Incisive ... Refreshing ... Compelling.” —Publishers Weekly

A crisp, passionately argued answer to the question that everyone who’s grown dependent on digital devices is asking: Where’s the rest of my life? Hamlet’s BlackBerry challenges the widely held assumption that the more we connect through technology, the better. It’s time to strike a new balance, William Powers argues, and discover why it's also important to disconnect. Part memoir, part intellectual journey, the book draws on the technological past and great thinkers such as Shakespeare and Thoreau. “Connectedness” has been considered from an organizational and economic standpoint—from Here Comes Everybody to Wikinomics—but Powers examines it on a deep interpersonal, psychological, and emotional level. Readers of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Outliers will relish Hamlet’s BlackBerry.

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About the author

Award-winning media critic William Powers has written for the Atlantic, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and McSweeney's, among other publications. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife, the author Martha Sherrill, and their son.

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Additional Information

Harper Collins
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Published on
Jun 29, 2010
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Social Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Half of the story is set in Good Samaritan House, a soup kitchen in Manhattan where Dom Gregory goes on a sabbatical to experience firsthand how the unexpected windfall the monks received might be used--this is a radical departure from his quiet monastic life of the past 20-plus years.

After struggling with what to do with the inheritance, the abbot holds a meeting of the monks that fails to find a consensus on what to do with the $25 million, so Dom Gregory meets with Jerome Cardinal Mazur to discuss the dilemma. Cardinal Mazur, as urbane and wise in his world, the city, as Dom Gregory is unassuming and wise in his—the monastery where he and 45 monks live in seclusion in order to be closer to God without distractions.

The Cardinal suggests an unusual solution to the monk’s predicament: take time away from the abbey and see up-close possible ways to share the money within the confines of the Church. Indeed, the Cardinal knows of a soup kitchen ‘that owes him a favor,’ so the abbot agrees to spend an indefinite amount of time volunteering in the Good Samaritan House, a soup kitchen in New York’s lower east side. Chapters 10-17 are set in Manhattan, and are a considerable departure from the placidity of St. Marks. A local church the abbot discovers (the Church of Our Saviour on Park and 38th), and the Cloisters (an adjunct of the Met) make his stay in the city much more comfortable than it might have been.

After a few weeks, Dom Gregory returns to St. Marks after living the antithesis of life at the abbey, and seeing up close the life he was missing. The novel ends with Chapter 18, when the story returns to the Trappist Monastery and one of his first tasks is to advise a brother who cannot decide if he is wasting his life.

Chapter-to-Chapter outline:

Chapter 1 “Why Did You Become a Monk?” reveals the heart of the story: what is Dom Gregory, who has control of the monks at St. Marks that all take a vow of poverty, going to do with $25,000,000 that the community recently inherited. [Included]

Chapter 2: ‘But Nobody Ever Really Thinks about Money, Dom Gregory’ has a full portrait of the abbot, Dom Gregory, and his tete-a-tete with an attorney, Paul Carroll, who represents the estate that left the monks the twenty-five million dollars. It is also a mildly humorous dichotomy of two very divergent views on how wealth can (or should) be used.

Chapter 3: ‘All Things Pass; God Never Changes’ is a foray into the fantasy aspect of fiction. As the story advances and Dom Gregory realizes the pressure an extraordinary gift can bring to the placid community and himself in particular. The strain is evident in unexpected ways, and while he is falling asleep Dom Gregory levitates—or does he dream he levitated?

Chapter 4: ‘Did Mona Lisa Wet Herself?’ is a humorous interlude that shifts the story to a Manhattan theater not far from the Good Samaritan House. Jennifer Scott is in the spotlight of a Performance Art spectacle: she sits on a toilet center stage having an unusual give-and-take chat with the audience while she waits until she defecates on stage in public—which will conclude her performance.

Chapter 5: in ‘Heroin Sucks’ Phil Briley, an artist who lives in the Good Samaritan House, is the focus of the second NY chapter before the novel returns to the abbey. The chapter’s title comes from the conclusion Briley draws after answering questions of the soup kitchen’s founder, Grace Cullen. I modeled that character, by the way, on Dorothy Day (co-founder of the Catholic Worker), whom I had the good fortune of meeting. ‘Heroin Sucks’ is also one of the strongest—for description—chapters in the book.

Etc., etc.

Bill Cooper, former United States Naval Intelligence Briefing Team member, reveals information that remains hidden from the public eye. This information has been kept in Top Secret government files since the 1940s. His audiences hear the truth unfold as he writes about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the war on drugs, the Secret Government and UFOs. 

Bill is a lucid, rational and powerful speaker who intent is to inform and to empower his audience. Standing room only is normal. His presentation and information transcend partisan affiliations as he clearly addresses issues in a way that has a striking impact on listeners of all backgrounds and interests. He has spoken to many groups throughout the United States and has appeared regularly on many radio talk shows and on television. In 1988 Bill decided to "talk" due to events then taking place worldwide, events which he had seen plans for back in the early '70s. Since Bill has been "talking," he has correctly predicted the lowering of the Iron Curtain, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the invasion of Panama. All Bill's predictions were on record well before the events occurred. Bill is not a psychic. His information comes from Top Secret documents that he read while with the Intelligence Briefing Team and from over 17 years of thorough research. 

"Bill Cooper is the world's leading expert on UFOs." — Billy Goodman, KVEG, Las Vegas. 

"The only man in America who has all the pieces to the puzzle that has troubled so many for so long." — Anthony Hilder, Radio Free America 

"William Cooper may be one of America's greatest heroes, and this story may be the biggest story in the history of the world." — Mills Crenshaw, KTALK, Salt Lake City. 

"Like it or not, everything is changing. The result will be the most wonderful experience in the history of man or the most horrible enslavement that you can imagine. Be active or abdicate, the future is in your hands." — William Cooper, October 24, 1989.

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