Monday, June 30, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
I began with a history of how various people have seen books, from Socrates, who decried the growing reliance on books in Plato’s Phaedrus, to the mystical nature of scribe-copied books behind the walls of abbeys to the new narrative entertainment of video games. When I suggested that the participatory narrative of video games might affect the reading of fixed-narrative literature, most of the kids balked: they definitely did not see this happening. They enjoy both playing video games and reading books, and wanted the stories in novels to remain immutable, which most felt was their charm and interest. They also disagreed with my assertion that contemporary video game narratives were truly changeable. They claimed that the goal of video games remained constant: Only the path taken to reach the ultimate goal could be changed. Because the narrative lines were not unlimited, the narrative itself was not essentially changeable.
Quick aside: what does it mean to the future of literary reading that the San Diego Comic-Con gets over 100,000 visitors in four days?
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Fast forward to 2030. Every book ever published in every language is available for download on my e-reader. There are no literary critics, only social networks. Absent expertise, relativism triumphs. The concept of historical lists of must-reads—a popular “canon”—is laughable. Universities don’t teach literature classes, they embed literature in experiential technical training (except for a few hold-out teachers, called Mandarins, after the sectionable fruit). The Ford Motor Company is defunct, and history really is bunk. Instead of reading, I am injected with the memory of reading specific books and, boy, I really got a great deal of pleasure from reading Don Quixote for the third time (so much richer after three readings, isn’t it, especially when you read it, as I remember doing, while sitting on the terrace of a castle in La Mancha?). Sometimes I don’t have the memory of books given to me. Instead, I call up a hologram of William Gibson and he reads his new book to me directly in virtual reality. When I don’t like the direction the story is taking, I tell him to change it, which he does, according to my specifications. John Ashbery just passed away at the age of 103 and I was thinking about his poem “Purists Will Object” and how we’ll never have any new poems from him after sixteen collections. But the past is now the future so I call up all his poems and feed them into my Recryptoverse program and it creates twelve new Ashbery poems which I add to my blog as “The Projected Poems of John Ashbery” so that people can read them on their UrenkelKindle.
Friday, June 6, 2008
The graphic novel may be reaching the beginning stages of inclusion, but teachers need to understand it better before they include it in the classroom. In the graphic novel, text implies image, image implies text, independent from and dependent on one another. Like white space in the post-modern novel, in the graphic novel the space between the panels contains narrative. The history and criticism of comics have yet to be written in any comprehensive form but they are coming, evidenced by the panel discussion on the canon of comics I attended this morning at New York University, sponsored by The Museum of Cartoon and Comic Art and featuring Rob Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art; John Carlin, editor of Masters of American Comics and curator of a seminal comics exhibition; and Dan Nadel, author of Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969. With a comprehensive history, comics’ past will change, as will their future. I hope we will not leave the writing up to art historians, however, and remember the interdependence of text and image.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Perhaps in these cases we are not only talking about the past as a predictor, but as a movement through horizontal space that re-senses our perceptions of the author and his or her literary work. When we visit these homes and imagine Wharton or Twain lolling on the terrace with a cup of tea, we create a literary moment. We write this as a short memoir, and a dialogue with the author.
The new media and our conception of the future will change that movement and our relationship with literary authors. If we don't visit the author’s home physically, we often do so as an imaginative construct with the help of two-dimensional media. Isn’t that what photography and film initiated? A visit to The Mark Twain House in Second Life, anyone? But what does it mean for our experience if we only visit in cyberspace? Read the first chapter in Umberto Eco’s Travels in Hyperreality. Eco visits the Museum of the City of New York to see a diorama of early New York, and then walks outside to see contemporary New York. Neither one then feels “real” anymore. He discusses the false sense of visit in the nineteenth century invention of photography. So what will a “visit” in cyberspace mean? And does it matter to a better understanding of Twain’s art?
In 1971, the village of Illiers, in France, where Proust spent his Easters and some summers and which he “immortalized” in the first volume of In Search of Lost Time as “Combray”, changed its name to Illiers-Combray as part of its commemoration of the centennial of Proust’s birth, thereby mixing fact and fiction. If some historians have cringed at such re-creations as Colonial Williamsburg and Civil War battle re-enactments (look out, the sesquicentennial of 1861 is around the corner), how will we react to “cyber-creations” that enable us to “walk through” early nineteenth century London and “greet” the Dashwoods?