|Oct/Nov 2006 Book Reviews|
The following are the author's opinions and do not in any way represent the official views of Eclectica Magazine or its editors.
Because there are now over 200 million sites on the World Wide Web, a portal or gateway is becoming increasingly crucial. Of the many kinds, a literary portal provides access to a number of other literary sites. Michael Neff, the overall impresario/genius behind Web Del Sol, had the smarts to recognize the importance of providing such access early, and under its umbrella, a group of literary sites coalesced into the internet equivalent of a Hearst-like empire. At its center, Web Del Sol is a major site in its own right and provides meaty literary content designed to capture your interest. It is an amazing, grandiose, ever expanding, and sometimes mean-spirited machine. Through all its gastrointestinal hype and hyperbole, it retains its original enthusiasm and freshness. It bills itself as "The largest publisher of nonprofit contemporary literature in the United States, and the oldest and most popular literary content provider in the world." Whew! I wonder how the rest of the world feels about that? I've never encountered anything like Web Del Sol. It pleases and irritates at the same time. The folks at Web Del Sol love to rate things and appear to believe themselves to be the primary, if not ultimate, web arbiter of all things literary. Let them crow. If I were the moving force behind this monstrous, literary meat market of an ezine, I'd crow, too. You could spend weeks picking at its bones.
Big Bridge is a well designed, pleasantly idiosyncratic, and highly competent site. What I like most about it is that it's not averse to having a little fun. There is no pretense or mummery here unless it's the subject of a particular piece. It is direct, positive, and sometimes inscrutable. Each issue features a chapbook, poetry, art, fiction, non-fiction, and reviews. It has a creative, professional sort of aura. The best part of it is often far down on the menu. Editor Michael Rothenburg knows what he likes, and by the range of contributing editors, he has a lot of help putting the mag together. Numerous months can pass, however, before one issue replaces another.
On an average day I visit between ten to fifteen sites. I move forward and backward, up and down, leaping between sites in a way that the linear script of a traditional paper book would never allow. Writing is constantly changing. The really interesting sites are those that attempt to deal with that fact, and BeeHive is a case in point. This fascinating journal began in 1998. At that time it was one of the most ambitious, creative, and forward looking literary venues available. It remains multi-dimensional and attempts to integrate computer technology into the creative process itself. It both fails and succeeds spectacularly. Those who think of poetry and fiction as some kind of static, purist activity will be perplexed and angered by this site. Good. The dull edged and atrophying literary aesthetic of exclusion has long passed.
Zafusy is elegant and well organized. It has a great deal to recommend it. Contemporary poetry is its focus, with all the strengths and weaknesses that the word "contemporary" suggests. It is edited by Jody Porter and originates from London. I believe it to be all about spaces, as the arrangement and orthography of the opening page suggests. The language is sometimes dense and murky, but it seems to be comfortable prowling creative, interior spaces. The writing is very good and sometimes remarkable. This contemporary and fresh looking journal shows care and precision. Zafusy suggests the emergence of a new and exciting international art scene. It has produced ten issues. Hopefully, many more are to come.
Dr. Donna Campbell, Department of English, Washington State University, is responsible for an entertaining, well organized, in depth portal to American literature on the net. American Authors, a Literary Timeline, and a section on Literary Movements are featured. This appears to be an active and growing resource, and anyone interested in American literature would find this site of interest. Significantly, an annotated section of links is provided.