Bibliomania

I have been feverish, weak and bedridden for the last few days, so I anticipate that in my near future there lurk a number of rather short reviews of movies I have seen and the book I have read in this absent time. I just wanted to write in quickly, however, to note my mad bibliophilous fervor for a few web ideas.

The first of my new enthusiasms is www.librarything.com, a site that puts the catalogues of amazon.com and its international brethren, the Library of Congress, and a bevy of university libraries to the service of cataloguing your personal book collection. The site is addictively easy to use, and will allow you as much privacy as you might wish about your information. Some of the Library Thing's best features, however, can only be enjoyed by the less than private - the ability to view the profiles and collections of those with libraries similar to yours, for instance, or access to all user reviews and ratings of any book in the system. The Library Thing will also crunch numbers for you in all manner of giddiness-inspiring ways: it will break down your library by language of publication or origin, by year of publication or date of entry; it will tell you if any of your books are owned by just one other user so that you can seek out the other misfits who were drawn to this strange corner of the literary world; it will even turn your list of authors into an alarming diagram which reveals that your snooty graduate school tastes will never outpace your secret love of mysteries and fantasy. At any rate, if you have a near-obsessive passion for books, it will undoubtedly provide you with many valuable hours of procrastination. (One negative should be noted, although it is undoubtedly necessary to the upkeep of the site: only the first 200 books you enter are free, after that you may enter unlimited books for $10 a year or a $25 lifetime membership.)

My second new obsession is the delightful www.quickmuse.com , which periodically invites two established poets to participate in a verse agon: each poet is provided with the same "inspiration" from the moderator (usually a quotation), and is then given 15 minutes to compose a poem in response to it. What is so delightful about this idea is that readers can watch the composition process in real time, even after the fact, following each pause and emendation as the poem itself unfolds. Robert Pinsky is one of the poets scheduled for tomorrow's agon, and he seems full of enthusiasm for the venture.

The third (and last, for now) of my discoveries is the new reading group at online 'zine www.wordswithoutborders.org , which is devoted to the discussion of international works of different genres from the "Reading the World" publishers' project. The works they have lined up seem extraordinary: Mati Unt's "Things in the Night" in June, and Svetlana Alexeivich's very highly praised "VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL" in July. Each month a critic or editor from periodicals like The Paris Review, The Boston Globe, and The Believer introduce and moderate the discussion, which so far has been much more intelligent than the average discussion of literature in real or cyberspace, albeit also much less voluminous or active. I missed the first month, but have already ordered "Things in the Night" and can't wait to dive in.

One Response so far.

  1. I put a quote from this on the buzz page. I hope you don't mind.

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