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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 7, 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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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