A couple of years ago, I embarked on a quixotic quest: I gave up the Internet. Surfing, emailing, YouTube-watching—it had taken over my life, eating into time I wanted to be spending with my family, my students, and my work. I documented my four-month Internet fast in a series of articles for Slate, describing the pleasures and challenges of disconnecting. I returned to the Web-enabled world to discover, sadly, that I was no better at resisting the Internet’s siren song. On the plus side, however, I felt rested and inspired and knew I could step away again when I needed to (and not be afraid my life would collapse).
The “Offline” project also gave me the idea for my new book, Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special!, in which Santa discovers, to his chagrin, that it’s a whole new digital world out there and the only presents children are asking for these days are video games and iTunes gift cards. So Old St. Nick sets out to remind today’s kids about the pleasures of handmade gifts by creating an old-fashioned item—a comic book. He enlists the help of the Magical Cartooning Elf (naturally), and together with a brave knight they search for a story to hold the attention of a generation of Web-addled kids.
Below is an excerpt from the book. (And yes, I am aware of the irony that you’ll be reading it on a screen.) I also realize most kids won’t choose a book over a video game. But what’s Christmastime all about if not hoping for a miracle?