Saturday, November 08, 2003

No surprise – Gary Sullivan, whom I described the other day as Daniel Davidson’s old friend & literary executor, wrote in response to my comments Monday.


Hi Ron,


Thanks for writing about Dan's book — it's always interesting to get people's thoughts on his writing.


I had to stop and think about why I did not list the order of the sections of culture, which is I guess a way of saying that what follows is more hindsight than anything else. But, for what it's worth, here's my take:


You're right about why Krupskaya published some of it online — they simply couldn't afford to do the whole book. I'm not sure how Dan himself would have felt about this compromise. Ultimately, I felt that, because Dan had been so active online, even before the World Wide Web, it was appropriate that some of it appear online, even given that the reason it's up there is due to a financial compromise. Part of the compromise, I think, involves especially that piece "An Account," which posed a kind of typesetter's nightmare. By simply scanning Dan's manuscript (no electronic version of any of this text existed — at least, I didn't have an electronic copy of any of it), all of his intended formatting was retained. Because Krupskaya books are uniform in design and size, I'm not sure how a typesetter would have gone about reformatting something designed initially for 8-1/2" x 11" ... I mean, it could have been done, most likely in Quark, but I think the cost (or maybe the cost and time) required to have it done prevented Krupskaya from doing it that way.


The fact that some of it is online and some in print was — to me — an interesting approach to publishing the book that seemed to render the manuscript order somewhat — not entirely, but somewhat — moot, considering that one has to go from book to Web and back to book, so already a solid sense of linearity has been lost. Because he was such a Webhead by the end of his life, that I think Dan would have appreciated the way in which Krupskaya's part-print/part-Web publication brings the work into the digital (and non-, or less linear) age.


But, like I say, that's hindsight, and the truth is, if someone had offered to publish the book wholly in print, that's what I'd have done — and it would have, in that case, retained the original manuscript order of the sections. Krupskaya's interest in publishing the book, btw, was a surprise to me ... Kevin simply wrote to me one day saying that Krupskaya wanted to publish it. I hadn't submitted it myself; I think either Sianne Ngai or Dan Farrell had done so.


I need to dig out the manuscript itself again to find the original order of the sections (it's at home, and I'm at work), but I do know that they weren't ordered chronologically. I think he had figured out all of the sections he was going to write very early on, because I do remember him talking about it as a whole project, even from the beginning, but I don't think he was quite so systematic as to write each section, one after the other, in order. He did, however, finish some things earlier on — Product, for instance was the first one he completed. I think, though, that Image was completed after Transit — I remember Transit appearing very early on in Avec, a couple of years before Image came out as a book from Zasterle.


Thanks again, and hoping you are well,