Materiality, information, and absence: as Kirschenbaum rightly notes, literature is “different after word processing,” and...



A learned and lively study of the sometimes-uneasy fit between writing on a computer and writing generally.

John Updike, some of whose garbage—literally—just went up for auction, may have been the last major American author to leave a “vast paper trail, possibly the last of its kind,” in the words of biographer Adam Begley. His successors leave, instead, an evanescent electronic trail. The effect on literary study is just beginning to be felt; enter Kirschenbaum (English/Univ. of Maryland; Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination, 2008, etc.). Though a full taxonomy of the stylistic changes wrought by the computer has yet to be published, Kirschenbaum does a good job of hinting at lines for future research. Moreover, his here-and-now study is useful in showing how word processing spread from the realm of science fiction into that of general literature, introduced by the likes of Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and especially Douglas Adams and slowly adopted by the mainstream. Even then, as Kirschenbaum shows, some writers who might have been expected to take to computers resisted. David Foster Wallace, to name one, preferred composing in longhand and then transcribing onto the computer; he also “deliberately eras[ed] rejected passages from his hard drive so as not to be tempted to restore them to the manuscript later on.” Computer sleuthing nonetheless helped bring the posthumous Pale King into being, as it did some of the late work of Frank Herbert. Kirschenbaum observes that word processing as a literary subject comprises “a statistically exceptional form of writing that has accounted for only a narrow segment of the historical printing and publishing industry.” This would seem obvious, given the newness of the gear, but the author deepens that account with cross-technological looks at typewriting (shades of William Burroughs) and other compositional media—including tape, “the medium that initially defined word processing.”

Materiality, information, and absence: as Kirschenbaum rightly notes, literature is “different after word processing,” and so is literary history. He makes a solid start in showing how.

Pub Date: May 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-674-41707-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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