Bones of the Book

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

A short essay about the digital future of books that focuses primarily on various e-book formats, constrating the failures of early experiments by publishers such as Voyager Expanded Books with more recent digital-publishing trends -- such as Touch Press's app version of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland and meta-analytic tools, such as Amazon's X-Ray, which is bundled with the Kindle Touch -- that suggest the promose of expanded e-books. Electronic literature, in this narrative, receives only cursory attention. After noting that the "electronic literary vanguard tends to dislike e-books because they are too much like real books," Moor provides a brief account of electronic literature that, regretably, equates the field almost exclusively with the hypertextualists who built and wrote using StorySpace. While Moor is aware that a multiplicity of e-literary forms exist, he neglects to describe the "dreamy new places" that author-programmers have subsequently built. For those interested in digital-literary aesthetics, the essay is best read as a guage of the suspicion about electronic literature that, as of 2012, persists in the wider literary culture.

Pull Quotes: 

The early hypertextualists—Joyce, Moulthrop, Judy Malloy, Shelley Jackson, Rob Swigart, J. Yellowlees Douglas—wrote about interconnectedness, flux, immateriality, and sprawl, themes that reflected the structure of StorySpace, the program most of them used to craft and publish their work. Yet the hyperfictionists also managed to bend the technology to their own political and artistic whims, using its disruptive nature to splinter notions of linearity and authorship

This cadre of author-programmers, clustered around a handful of progressive universities and museums, continue to engineer word toys, interactive fiction, and various forms of digital poetry—poems that shiver and collapse; poems that read themselves; poems that crawl across gallery walls; poems encoded within poems; poems randomly generated by algorithms; poems fully abstracted into constellations of floating individual letters. The end result has been a corpus of texts so hard and shiny they could chip a tooth.

Words have shape and musicality. They almost have a flavor. But they are too easily drowned out by stronger stimuli.

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Eric Dean Rasmussen