Oct/Nov 2007  •   Reviews & Interviews

Five Quick and Dirty Lit Site Reviews

Review by Scott Malby

The following are the author's opinions and not necessarily those of Eclectica Magazine or its editors.



Artseensoho was developed in New York around 1998 or 1999. Here merchandizing, art, and the literary net meet. It strikes me as exceptional. Webmasters can benefit from its design. The color coding reminds me of riding the tube in London. This is definitely a class act. In the section titled "selected reading," there is a sequence featuring blurbs from writers who can help provide you with an excellent introduction regarding contemporary aesthetics. The blurbs reference their texts. Make a note of the ones you want to search out, and track the texts down. Many are on the internet. Post-modern theoretical discussions today make a virtue out of their difficulties. This often happens when a writer feels the need to obscure true influences. Don't fall for it. In "open sequence" you will find the names of some primary players to help lead you through these difficulties. This section features individuals as diverse as Blok, Walter Benjamin, Brecht, Einstein, Baudelaire, and La Rochefoucauld. Take a virtual walk through the New York art scene while you're there. The links at artseensoho are interesting as well. While I was there, I found one link that was inactive. There may be more.


Boston Review: A Political And Literary Review

Boston Review is earnest, intelligent, honest, and remarkable. It has an exceptional poetry and fiction section you can easily access on the left of the entry page. If I had any spare change, I'd subscribe to it. In this fragmenting era it's hard to trust any media (think Fox and New York Times). That the Boston Review is unabashedly liberal there is no doubt. It takes its point of view seriously but does so in a fascinating, entertaining, and knowledgeable manner. Politics, poetry, fiction, and essays are its strengths. Its online product provides you with a great deal of fine reading material. It is easily navigable and seems to go from strength to strength. Its mission statement was fascinating to read. This is a serious contender for one of the best magazines in the country. Its presence online is well thought out and giving. No matter your politics, you have to give this journal respect for its overall presentation, clarity, and intellect.



In an interesting article in poets.org, Jessica Winters queries both old-timers and up-and-comers regarding where they go on the Internet. Poets and poetry editors are featured. Of course, the senior editor for Poetry Magazine is included. It was nice to see some fresh new faces. If you're the Yaddo/Paris Review type, this article is a fascinating read. I've been randomly going to some of the sites recommended for a couple of days now and have been charmed, amused, and confused, sometimes all at the same time. I was struck by the importance of blogs on the list. You can bet that 99.9% of what passes for mainstream literary significance today will represent an irrelevant sideline. The problem is that, for the most part, we don't know what the future will find significant in terms of its experience, and it is precisely that unknowable variable that will cause it to rank today's voices in terms of relevance. Of course, this has nothing to do with Winter's article. She did a great job. The choices Jessica Winter made in selecting those questioned regarding Internet habits were excellent. Her article was very fashionable, safe, politically correct, and establishment. It was clever, entertaining, and only a little irrelevant.


Project Gutenberg

I've been impressed by Project Gutenberg for a number of years now. I keep running into it. It was one of the first online sites to make available public domain books for free download. Have I ever fully downloaded one? No. That's beside the point, or, maybe not. You can download the books into various formats, including paper. The site depends on hundreds of volunteers. It appears that they select ebooks and organize their library on the basis of three categories: Light Literature, Heavy Literature and References. I would hate to be the one doing the weighing. Some material is available in languages other than English. What is really interesting is their ability to graph, list, and rank the number of books downloaded each day. When I visited the site the number of books downloaded in the last 30 days was 2,498,090. It catalogs a tremendous number of literary masterpieces as well as hard to find writing. Project Gutenberg is not only a good site but an important one. Here's the thing: this site is not dependent on having to list only what is popular. This represents one of the great promises of the Internet that it is both for the many and for the individual at the same time. Project Gutenberg deserves your support.


poetry hut

Upon first encountering the entry page to poetry hut, I was not impressed. I thought it simple, low key, and not well presented. Was I wrong! This site is tremendous. It charms rather than shouts. The articles it links to are so entertaining that they appeal to both the writer on the make and the general reader. What you don't get is an attempt to further a specific agenda as seen, for example, in the Silliman Blog. Take note, poetry hut links to articles that will both fascinate and tickle your mind. You could easily get hooked into being a regular. Blog author Jill Dybka is able to prioritize and organize material she discovers online into a pleasant and entertaining whole. The versatility of the blog format is such that it can function as a vehicle for a variety of formats, including this strongly worthwhile endeavor. Thank you, Jill Dybka.