Sunday, July 11, 2010

I want to go to Mars

Ooh, I've discovered a new trick. Embedding music in posts. Excellent. Hopefully it's legal. Hmm. No, I'm sure it's all fine. La la la.

Good, I'm glad about this. If I have any 'literary philosophy' when it comes to writing - or the 'art of' - then it's that the conventional shape of the 'book' as we know it is going to have to do two things (at least) in order to retain the cultural artefactual status it has enjoyed for so long.

One, is for the format of books to incorporate, or engage with, the varying mediums through which text is disseminated these days, especially online: through blogs, social networking and video tubes especially.

Two, is for the content of the text itself to experiment with 'immersion' as opposed to, or in addition to, the traditional practice of 'reading'.

Listening to music, watching video clips and streaming, reading and writing blogs, are all fragmentable tasks: they can be done in conjunction with other online activities, and be interjected and directly connected to these other tasks. In contrast, reading paperbacks is an off-line activity, disconnected from the online world in which every single other form of text is readily available, creatively and diversely presented, and in constant busy communication with other textual forms. Books are getting well and truly left out.

Of course there are eBooks and there's no doubt these will play a large role in the necessary changing shape of books, BUT I propose that simply transferring the text to a screen won't be enough. There will need to be new dimensions to books that convince us of their continuing place in the modern world - that they still have something relevant to contribute.

So what does this have to do with Marz by John Grant? The song makes arbitrary words mean something because the tune that carries the words means something. Without the emotive melody, they'd just be empty words.

In case you haven't heard, (you may need to sit down for this, because I have some bad news), apparently The Novel Is Dead (the first artifact to die more than once??): I'd normally probably ramble on about needing to change definitions rather than just abandoning a useful word that's been used to describe certain fictions yaddah yaddah, but on this occasion I'm going to humour such grandiloquence and tentatively suggest the paper-form book has indeed run its course and, in and of itself, is no longer able to say anything new - not because of its content, but because of its form. These days, with the way we consume different forms of text online, content cannot be divorced from the medium through which it is delivered. The medium contributes to the meaning.

And so, at their most simplistic, I think future eBooks will need to include links, videos, music and art: both the content and form of the text will need to engage with online mediums and ideas about intertextuality: the words will need to be carried by melodies and reach out of the page to touch other online texts. If the novel is dead (and it's a big if), then it's because its carrier, the paper-form book, has run out of steam; is old, decrepit and exhausted. While the cantankerous old novel looks back at its glory days - at what it once was - when paperbacks were celebrated for their innovative accessibility and the part they played in disseminating the novel - everyone else is looking forward or looking up, into space and at the stars, at what might be accessible now.

Find more artists like John Grant at Myspace Music

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