COOVER ON THE END OF BOOKS

SLS Montreal special guest Robert Coover wrote prophetically about the future of hypertext and the end of printed books way back in 1992, when the rest of us were still listening to Nirvana and most of us were accessing Prodigy on our dialup connections.  Some of hypertext’s innovations as seen by Coover–the incorporation of statistics charts, song lyrics, newspaper articles, and dictionary entries–have made it into the world of print, and David Foster Wallace would employ almost all of them in Infinite Jest several years later.  Coover ran a hypertext-based writing workshop at Brown back in ’92 and here talks about the good and creative work that came out of that class.  Things have certainly changed since then–Coover’s class was working on Apple 7.0!–but it’s not hard to read his article with contemporary ears.  What he’s calling (and is still called) hypertext, we might simply call the internet.  Indeed, some of the problems Coover presents remain; namely, how to maintain unity, narrative integrity, and voice in an amorphous and community-composed text.  As sampling becomes more accepted by the mainstream, how do these concerns and others affect what we consider art?

With all of the current talk about the possible demise of printed books, it’s interesting to hear a writer as artistically minded as Coover talk about the possibilities inherent in a post-print book world.

(via Understanding Sociology of New Media)

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