Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Ways to Publish Old Material

A post by Blake Wilson over at Papercuts, "A Blog About Books" hosted by the New York Times, was all about yet another blog. Papercuts seems quite good by newspaper literary blog standards, as those folks are really trying to generate discussion. Smaller papers smartly use local literary events and local bestseller lists for content, like David Mehegan's Off the Shelf hosted by the Boston Globe, and while that makes sense, it makes for a rather dull blog. So here's hoping Papercuts sticks with it and finds a strong readership.

Wilson's post that caught by eye was entitled, "George Orwell, Tween Narcissist?" It was all about The Orwell Prize blog, which is publishing Orwell's diary entry by entry, as blog entries. As they explain, "From 9th August 2008, Orwell’s domestic and political diaries (from 9th August 1938 until October 1942) will be posted in real-time, exactly 70 years after the entries were written." August 12th entry reads,

Very hot in the morning. In the afternoon sudden thunder-storm & very heavy rain. About 50 yards from the gate the road & pavement flooded a foot deep after only 1 1/2 hours rain.

Blackberries beginning to redden.

I don't know, I find this rather charming.

I like the mundanity, and judging from the number of commenters, I'm not alone. (Wilson disagrees - read his post to see why). They are still working out the best way to provide context without taking away from the basic and simple concept, but I think we can get it from the About section.

This intrigues me as a way to publish important archival material in a engaging way, with modern technology that makes the material not just accessible, but strangely enjoyable. Orwell is on our level. The commenters are both amused and intrigued by their ability to speak back to the entries, clearly.

It makes me wonder what else can be digitized and made part of modern culture like this, in a way that seems to be relatively free of branding (besides the literary prize, which seems okay to promote). There's always something disappointing about a song being rediscovered because it's in a new car commercial. But this uses the internet, html, for it's original purpose, as a sharing tool, without corporate involvement. Hell, it's not even Google sponsored!

Kinda exciting stuff.

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