Sunday, September 03, 2006


What does it mean to be transliterate?

Take Mark Z. Danieleski's new book Only Revolutions. As with the many other works of fiction, poetry, and online lite[art]ure that have been absorbed into the canons of avant-garde and avant-pop writing, the question will once again be asked: "Who can read this book?"

It was easy to ask these questions when faced with a multi-linear, online work like GRAMMATRON, since the work was clearly conceived and produced as something other than a book, and the formal experience of interacting with the narrative was being mediated by a then relatively unknown interface, i.e. the World Wide Web. That was already challenging enough (creating a cryptic story only made it doubly-triply difficult and the "literariness" was often overlooked so that an emphasis in all of the reviews could be placed on the avant-gardeness of the technological experience itself).

But what happens when a book is still a book? In today's L. A. Times review of Only Revolutions, they say "[b]ecause the author has spent more time on pacing and packaging than on the story, Only Revolutions, with its multiple entry points, is really about the reading experience. Danielewski's intention simply may be to illuminate the limits to which the novel can be stretched, the many different ways a book can now be read." They continue:
Only Revolutions will likely infuriate traditionalists, who (like one friend of mine) might well call it "ejaculations of ink on paper." But it's also a quintessential novel of our time, embodying, as it does, art / technology / literature / design and the spirit of experimentation. In an era when the media landscape is more fractured and saturating than ever before, when the glossy packaging of products (from books to bath gel) is increasingly important, when novels are downloaded onto iPods and sampled on cellphones and the blogosphere has created an insatiable appetite for information, immediacy and interactivity — amid all this, "Only Revolutions" makes sense. Danielewski, a publicity-minded, artistic pioneer at once talented and superficial, could be the voice of the budding, literary online cognoscenti. For better or worse."
Is there really a "budding, literary online cognoscenti?" Or are artists just becoming more media-savvy than ever (avant-pop redux) and, out of necessity, using the prosumer media apparatus to better create their (digital) art persona?

Remember the words of Eleanor Antin: "I had a marvelous art-making machine -- my personas. I never knew where it would go."

Nor do any of us. But we still keep greasing the wheels.

I'll blog more on this subject, and refer to the new book, another time.

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