As my first blog posting in my new role as PS online editor, it seems apropos to ponder the rabid conversations regarding the rise of the e-book (not to be confused with e-literature, which we’ll get to in just a smidge). The Amazon Kindle, the free Barnes and Noble eReader (for your computer, iPhone, or Blackberry), and other avenues of paperlessness have provoked both ire and slavish devotion, sometimes within the same consumer. The resulting debate has been rather rigorously shaped around e-books vs. non-e-books, with most of us diehard romantics growing faint at the suggestion of digital ink, sending us dashing to our bookshelves to inhale the pulpy mildew and to fondle our books with a fetishist’s angst.
But the cockeyed optimists among us believe that the Kindle and its cohorts will rescue the novel from its much-chronicled demise (a death that I believe was first foretold in the year 1688, with the release of one of the earliest novels ever, Oroonoko , by Aphra Behn—novels were swiftly derided as lowbrow brain-suckers), by putting the book within the sexy proximity of electronica, which, we hear, is where all the funnest parties are.
Regardless of which side of the debate you take, this argument has (arguably) positioned “the book” closer to the forefront of the cultural conversation; or, at least, one could say the book has come closer to the forefront since the e-book put chewing gum in the book’s hair and sent it sobbing across the playground. Inevitably, the more e-readers are embraced by the reading public=the more bookish conversation and better the appreciation of the beauty of the book’s complex simplicity. (Also, look for more fiction writers and poets to eschew electronic reproduction by incorporating highly graphical elements, in the manner of Blake Butler’s Scorch Atlas and Lily Hoang’s Changing , and projects like Les Figues Press .)
Now, e-literature is another story: The current issue of PS includes poetry by Ed Falco, a pioneer in the development of hypertext and digital writing. Though his three poems in the fall ’09 Baby Boomer Issue —“In America,” “April 10, 1988,” “After, Climbing Dragon’s Tooth”—are decidedly un-digital (though I wouldn’t call them at all traditional, neither in structure nor content), his own hypertext and his endeavors on behalf of the publication of hypertext are available online. Falco is the founder/editor of the new river: a journal of digital writing & art (the spring ’09 issue of which includes work by another PS Baby Boomer Issue contributor: Denise Duhamel), and some of his digital work is available here . (And you can either purchase a lovely hardcover edition of his novel Wolf Point, or shove it into your Kindle .) For a podcast interview with Falco, and information about his most recent novel, Saint John of the Five Boroughs , visit Unbridled Books .
So how do we reconcile our adoration of our favorite bookseller (an early 20th century Brooklyn bookstore was described lovingly—tobacco-smoke and all—in Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop , which is available for free on your B&N eReader) with our impulse to be early adopters of new media? The best bookstore-friendly practice is to download the books unlikely to be found on bookstore shelves: my most recent downloads include The Art of Writing by Robert Louis Stevenson; Telling Fortunes by Tea Leaves: How to Read Your Fate in a Teacup by Cicely Kent (1922); and The Book of Repulsive Women by Djuna Barnes. (Full disclosure: despite years of debate among scholars seeking exactitude and revision in the publishing history of James Joyce’s Ulysses , the version I have is a Project Gutenberg freebie which is described as “ based on the pre-1923 print editions .” Based on ? Gulp.)
How exciting to see Ed Falco's name pop up and "hypertext" in your post. I've been bitten by the hypertext bug and just spent 100 days this past summer writing a new hypertext story each day in coordination with a group of artists each doing their own thing.
I'll have to check out PS online! Congratulations and best wishes in this endeavor. Needless to say, I think new media literature is poised and ready for the transition of expanding--not replacing--traditional book form text.
I'm just now noticing your post! Thanks for commenting, Susan. I think we're seeing hypertext segue into literary work that's "born digital," and the development of online lit mags dedicated to such work, like Born Magazine: http://www.bornmagazine.com/ But I think social networking sites such as this one will play a large part in marrying literary and digital ambitions. (By the way, the links aren't enabled in the post above, so please visit our blog at http://prairieschooner.typepad.com for the latest postings.)
Well I'm glad you noticed, Tim! It's not easy to keep up with things here at Fictionaut as it's a beehive of activity. I will check out your weblog and also Born Magazine--thanks for the links.
I'm considering starting an online (of course!) new media site as I've pioneered a couple of paper mags in my past. In the meantime, I was happy to have one of my hypertext pieces published in The New River Review Fall '09 issue and am working towards changing reader reluctance toward this new form by producing easier, less "God-I'm-afraid-of-getting-lost" pieces. Thanks for the links. Prairie Schooner has always been a top tier publication.
Prairie Schooner literary journal and Prairie Schooner Book Prize. Follow our tweets on Twitter @ TheSchooner; join our Facebook group; and read our blog at http://prairieschooner.typepad.com
Prairie Schooner Winter 2009 featuring prose by Heather Sellers, Jenny Shank, and Breja Gunnison; and poetry by Linda Pastan, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Robert Nazarene; and many others.
Prairie Schooner Book Prize (in poetry and short fiction) deadlines: Jan 15-March 15. Visit the website below for more info.http://prairieschooner.unl.edu/