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Friday | October 24, 2008

DallasNews.com: Contact us DallasNews.com: Books
E-publishing topics run the gamut

Whether e-book or print formats, the word still the main focus

08/05/2001

By JOSEPH MILAZZO / The Dallas Morning News

It remains to be seen whether digital technologies will lead to a new aesthetic medium, but the program for May's 4th Annual Digital Arts and Culture Conference ( www.stg.brown.edu/conferences/DAC/program.html) is instructive. A set of readings titled "A Night at the Cybertexts" shared equal time with papers on the narrative structure of video games, proceedings on the community dynamics of virtual realities, and real-time, fully interactive audio/visual installations. But even with so much activity on the margins of the print industry, most of these experiments still rely on one of the oldest human inventions: the word.

Digitopia: The Look of the New Digital You

Richard DeGrandpre

(Random House, available in both print and e-book formats, www.randomhouse.com/atrandom/categories/ebook/ $9.95; $15 paperback)

For some, the rhetoric surrounding the World Wide Web is just an irritation, but for psychologist DeGrandpre, it raises serious issues of individual and social well being. In a world of rampant consumerism, the author says, "once people are wired for a virtual world, the present world grows dim." Central to Dr. DeGrandpre's critique is his reading of the Internet as a tool corporations envision as a means to colonize the last frontiers of individual imagination and privacy. Far more than just another alarmist neo-Luddite tract.

The Unknown

Dirk Stratton, William Gillespie, Scott Rettburg and Frank Marquadt

( www.unknownhypertext.com/)

Hypertext fiction, with its avant-garde cachet and hip academic standing, is a prime target for satire. The Unknown is partly that – painful and amusing in about equal measure. In the main narrative, the four authors – almost interchangeable, flatly inflected narrative voices who are, nevertheless, contentious about their turf – are criss-crossing the nation to promote a literary "monsterpiece," The Unknown. Like Spinal Tap or Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, absurdity arises in their meetings with Denise Levertov, Thomas Pynchon, Noam Chomsky and the staff of Wired Magazine. The Unknown, then, is a road story. Vast in scale and freely mixing fact and invention, real people and imaginative composites, surreal situations and almost numbingly explicit detail, defiantly heterogeneous in format and style, excessive in its hyperlinking and embracing of confusion – The Unknown parodies the very meaning of "literary" and the modes of production that govern the creation of literature.

The Jube Dog Never Lies

Ramin Zahed

( www.iuniverse.com/marketplace/ bookstore/ $15.95)

Set in Iran in 1979 as the shah is deposed and the Ayatollah Kohmeni assumes power, The Jube Dog Never Lies (sponsored by the Writer Digest's Writer's Showcase initiative) is told from the point of view of a 12-year-old boy, with interludes for reflections by the boy's surrogate grandfather, one Dr. Cosmo. Some will be attracted to this novel by its exotic locale and magical realism: the talking dogs of the title and even a "jin" or djinni. But this story of a family pulled between West (American television, brand-name products) and East (Islamic theocracy) is told strongly enough and populated with enough rich, real characters to engage as well as to sustain interest.

The Civil War on the Web

William G. Thomas and Alice E. Carter

(Scholarly Resources Books. www.scholarly.com. $18.95 paperback)

What historians Mr. Thomas and Ms. Carter have assembled here is far more than the simple bibliographic directory implied by their work's prosaic title. For many Americans, the Civil War is an interest pursued with both academic rigor and a hobbyist's enthusiasm. This guide is an attempt to impart scholarly shape and intellectual balance to the vast amount of information available via the Internet on this subject. Topically arranged (e.g., "Battles and Campaigns," "Life of the Soldier," "Slavery and Emancipation"), the 95 "best" sites identified here are examined with impressive depth. Moreover, special attention is paid not only to the sites' content but to their organization and general accessibility. But most helpfully, the guide is accompanied by a CD-ROM with the full text (in Adobe Acrobat format) of the print original, with all URLs active as imbedded hyperlinks. Though not comprehensive, The Civil War on the Web offers a friendly, genuinely informative alternative to the average Internet search engine.

Joseph Milazzo writes about electronic publishing for The Dallas Morning News.



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