Thursday, 28 May 2009

If not now, when?

So, it's not going to be out in May, is it... The best bet would seem to be some time in July. But watch this (cyber)space.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Indexing for Fun

I've finished and sent off the index. Compiling an index is (in my limited experience) far harder and more laborious a task than could be imagined - more time-consuming too. It's easy enough tracking every mention of a person or a text; it's the conceptual entries which are the more elusive. Which ones to include? As space was a little tight I decided to accentuate those concepts that are integral to digimodernism (onwardness, competence, etc.) rather than those associated with postmodernism (hyperreality, depthlessness, etc.), which will have to take their own chances. And even when you've sorted out what goes in you have to distinguish between "mere mentions" of a person, text or topic, and "substantive discussion". As guidelines on indexing tell you, you don't index Churchill for sentences like "John Major was no Winston Churchill". Such guidelines also emphasize that an index is not a concordance, which may well be a wise reminder, since many writers consider their books founts of near-biblical truth....

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Espresso book machine

I love the idea of espresso book machines. The digitization of the book is revolutionizing our sense of what a book is and how we can access it. Will it change our perception of what literature is too? My guess is yes.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Boyle's Law 2.0

The furore over Susan Boyle and her first appearance on the excruciatingly-named Britain's Got Talent comprises a dimension which few if any commentators have touched on. It's that her narrative - ugly-looking unloved ancient female turns out to have the holy and exalting voice of an angel - seems so bogus, so obviously fraudulent, so evidently staged and manipulated.

As Charlie Brooker pointed out, Boyle (a) looks like most women of her age that you see anywhere and think nothing of - she's not "ugly" in the least, and (b) Boyle is a good but in no way extraordinary singer - she has a very nice voice, that's all. On her first appearance we were asked to believe that the judges had never seen or heard her before, that all their responses to her were spontaneous and sincere and authentic. Except the responses were so inappropriate to what they objectively had in front of them that they seem utterly faked - Amanda Holden's jaw hanging open in stupefaction, as if Boyle had revealed she was in fact the Warrior Christ and the hour of Armageddon was at hand.

Two possible interpretations of this international hysteria can be given:

(1) the implicit consumer of many digimodernist texts - and Britain's Got Talent is a digimodernist TV show - is credulous, naive, gullible. There's some validity to this, but it's a gross oversimplification too;

(2) Boyle's narrative looks, smells, sounds, walks and talks like fiction - like the fictional stories we are used to hearing and seeing. It's fairy tale - the humble girl who finds out she's really a princess, the ugly duckling legend by which the unprepossessing individual blossoms magically into a thing of beauty. It's the redemption narrative. It's the artist myth (unloved, unwashed genius toiling away in secret to bring forth eternal beauty). We ought to be wary of the Boyle narrative because, indeed, it comes across as something made up - as myth, as legend, as a structured and familiar story. But the context for this is a reality TV show. And when we watch such shows we are in fact watching the emergence from out of the formless flux of everyday life, the chaos and hazard and banality of the quotidian, the shape of narrative. This is what reality TV is: a format in which viewers can actually and apparently watch stories come into being, and participate in the development of those stories by voting and choosing.

So when a reality TV show comes across as fictional, it fulfils its raison d'etre. Nobody smells a rat because that is what reality TV is supposed to do: to dramatize text-making, story-making, narrative-making in real time. The irony is that for the participants their entry into "reality" TV marks the moment when their life passes from real into fiction.

And don't get me started on that kid who they made sing a different song...