Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ripping the Covers Off the Book

Dr. Luediger Wischenbart is in New York from Vienna for BookExpo, which gives me the opportunity to post a link to his interesting article on what constitutes a book. Click here for the .pdf.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Slow Reader

One of the pitfalls of working in the literary profession is that one is often required to read very quickly, even when the work itself requires slow reading. One of my remedies (and I have chosen that word specifically) to demon speed has been to read Proust, whose clauses need to be read slowly if one is to make any sense of the sentences. Reading needfully slow literature fast is a bad habit, but such "speed-reading" may also end up as a boon to the reading of new types of short-form literature.

Now along comes the digital Evelyn Wood. Those of you under the age of 50 may not know that Evelyn Wood's speed-reading course was made popular in the early 1960s because John F. Kennedy, Jr. boasted of reading at 1,200 words a minute after taking the course. If memory serves, after Evelyn Wood training, one read down the middle of the page, accumulating an understanding of key words and phrases. The claim was that comprehension did not suffer. Woody Allen once said, "I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It involves Russia."

Researchers writing for the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) have developed a method of highlighting thematically in digital texts so that one can skim, since, they say, that is how people "read" now anyway, cherry-picking only the ripe key words and phrases. Click here for a link to the PARC reference and the abstract. The article, by the way, is "controlled", meaning that you either need to take out a membership or purchase it.

P.S. By the way, this year is the centennial of Evelyn Wood's birth.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Elisabeth Sifton on The Book

Elisabeth Sifton's thoughtful memoir/essay on the future of the book in The Nation.

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Reading

Spent part of the weekend looking at various (fairly) new types of publications. New Directions is bringing out the works of B.S. Johnson and The Unfortunates is quite an interesting experiment, a sort of boxed-set of sequence-able book pieces. It seems to have led to some of the electronic work that easily allows for fiction without fixed sequence, such as Caitlin Fisher's These Waves of Girls, "published" in 2001, which is fun but I would love to see more mature work in electronic format. This stuff will work well on e-readers and I would even love to see an iPod-like "shuffle" so that the work itself will change with each reading, while the reader has no control over the sequence. A few of the other finalists in the Electronic Literature Organization's 2001 prize program are also interesting. For conservative newbies like me writers like Michael Joyce and Shelley Jackson are revelations.