Saturday, August 01, 2009

Reading and the Internet

I have been thinking of the ways the internet can enhance the experience of reading a book.

1. Google maps - finding out more about places described and plotting routes;
2. Google images for finding pictures of the places and people described;
3. Wikipedia for finding more information about the author;
4. For looking at sites described by the author in the book. For instance in Malcolm Gladwell's Blink there were several interactive sites referenced that could be accessed;
5. Bookshop sites for finding more books by the author or on the same subject;
6. Author websites for interacting with the author him/herself;
7. Using Google as a detailed dictionary - finding out the meaning of the words in the text;
8. Finding out how words sound - in audiobooks if available;
9. Google for alternative explanations and theories on a subject;
10. Google for finding out when the book was written and generally giving the book a context.

These are all pretty obvious, maybe, but it entertained me to think of them just now and I'm sure there are lots more...


Blogger Jud said...

I agree, Clare. An author's work often raises questions, whether intended or not, that need to be explored, and the internet is a way to begin the effort.

Sat Aug 01, 10:30:00 pm  
Blogger Al said...

I think (D)all of the above.

Seriously though, I have done all except 8. (maybe too arrogant to admit that I couldn't work out the correct pronunciation).

I give up, clearly I am not being serious at all.

Sun Aug 02, 12:13:00 am  
Anonymous Gilles said...

Your 8 points are good tools if one wants to research a book, but I have two remarks, if I may: writing a dissertation is not the same experience as reading for pleasure, and any novel or poem should be its own explanation.

Sun Aug 02, 12:25:00 am  
Blogger Kirsty said...

Hi Clare, I did a little bit of research assistant work a while back for a group of researchers who were trying to get a start on thinking about a literary tour of Brisbane--well not the whole city, but a couple of neighbouring suburbs. Anyway, Google maps was a great way of plotting a course of places of interest, not just sites connected to the biographies of particular authors or historical/political/cultural events/sites of significance, but also, as you say, places that exist in the writing. One of the best authors to do this for was David Malouf, who not only grew up in South Brisbane but also made it the setting for Johnno and Harland's Half Acre. The ability to add links to other sites on the internet was an excellent way to give readers the opportunity to pursue the particular aspects of Malouf's ouevre which interested them.

So on this I don't agree with the previous commentator at all. A novel or a poem will never be a hermeneutic artefact, not only because it exists in a particular context in relation to the rest of the world, but also because good writing will necessarily not follow every possible tangent. It's a very odd thing I think for any writer to want to limit the extent to which a reader might engage with his or her work. Might as well tell entire institutions invested in appreciating and criticising the work of writers to pack up and go home right now.

Sun Aug 02, 01:25:00 am  
Blogger dhamel said...

Interestingly, it just occurred to me for the first time the other day to look up something I was reading about on Google Maps. It was an address in Amsterday (in a novel by A.C. Baantjer). For some reason, seeing the neighborhood outined on the map did add to my enjoyment of the book.

Sun Aug 02, 01:40:00 am  
Blogger dhamel said...

Make that Amsterdam.

Sun Aug 02, 01:41:00 am  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I regularly read book reviews after I've finished a book to see what I've missed.

Sun Aug 02, 06:39:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Jud - and the delight with the internet is it is relatively little effort..although it dissolves away time.

Al- this is a new thing with me - hearing how words sound. It is beginning to interest me because sometimes words I understand when I read I think would be incomprehensible to me if I heard them spoken out of context. English is universal - but I'm wondering if really this will one day be just written English.

I don't know, Gilles - I take your point, and I guess there is a pleasure in allowing some poem or book to stand on its own terms and for the interaction to be a unique one between you and the writer...but there is also a place for expanding on this. When I've gone to book clubs and discussed a book it has enhanced my experience of the book, especially when people have researched it. And this is something we have all done for pleasure, just to give us a deeper understanding. So - in response - I can see the experience of reading a book in two ways in isolation and as part of what my mother calls 'the tapestry of life'.

That is really interesting, Kirsty, and I bet you produced a fascinating tour. There is so much potential here! Is it on the internet itself?

I agree with what you say about academia and criticism too. I used to think that I was better off as a writer developing my own way in isolation but now I think that's not true. We all learn so much from the opinions of others. When I was in a reading group I saw things in a new light because I was seeing the book through the eyes of others. And now I read literary criticism whenever I can. I think it's really valuable (and find it exciting too).

Yes, I agree Debra - it might not be essential to know a place when you read about it, but it does help a lot.

Exactly, Jim! Reading book reviews of books I've read are fascinating - like a book group, but even better in some ways.

Sun Aug 02, 01:45:00 pm  
Blogger Lee said...

And then there is the situation in which the internet delivers the book. Naturally, I'm thinking about this a lot at the moment as the launch date of my new serialisation approaches!

Sun Aug 02, 04:57:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ah yes, good point, Lee. I'd forgotten that one. Best of luck with that.

Sun Aug 02, 06:56:00 pm  
Anonymous Mary said...

I'll add another suggestion to your list. You can use the internet to research names for characters. I've done so recently, being particularly concerned with last names and their meanings. Here's the site I used:

Mon Aug 03, 01:06:00 am  
Anonymous Mary said...

Oops! You said enhancing 'reading' with the internet. I automatically expanded that to how the internet can assist us with 'writing.' The two blend seamlessly for me.

Maybe you can make a list for the writing side of the equation.

Mon Aug 03, 01:08:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Heh, heh - indeed they do, Mary! It's a good idea about the list for writing - I think it would be even longer.

Mon Aug 03, 05:08:00 am  
Blogger Al said...

Hi Clare,
I share your opinion of English. I often think it will end up something like Chinese with many groups using the same written form and speaking different dialects.
Mind you we might almost be there already. If you look at how differently say a Scot, an Aussie, and a Jamaican might speak you can be hard pressed to recognise the same spoken language.
I know a lot of Asian visitors to Oz struggle with understanding Aussie accents, yet have little difficulty with American ones.

Mon Aug 03, 07:56:00 am  
Blogger jem said...

Totally agree. I guess in the past we might have had to go to other books to look up supplementary material but it's all there at our fingertips with the internet. The tricky thing is to quickly look up what you want and then get back to the book, without being sucked into the vortex of the internet and only hours later re-emerging to pick up your dusty paperback!

Tue Aug 04, 01:11:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Oooh yes, Jem - excellent point - sometimes I'm 'gone' for ages.

Tue Aug 04, 09:29:00 pm  
Blogger Mack said...

Clare, In addition to your excellent list, I also use Google Earth.

Gilles, I don't disagree with your point that "any novel or poem should be its own explanation" but it is possible to get pleasure from researching a novel one is reading for pleasure. If a book is set in a foreign (to me) location I enjoy using wikipedia, Google maps, Google Earth, etc to find out more about the location, people, events, etc. Of course, I'm a librarian which might account for my obsession for detail.

Wed Aug 12, 05:04:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ah yes, Google earth - great resoruce, thanks Mack.

Thu Aug 13, 08:44:00 am  

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