i s   i t   a   b o o k ?
"When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you sometimes find that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."
- A.A. Milne
This website was created with a view to introducing people to some of the possibilities of nonlinearity in art and literature. Those who have a previous interest in books, libraries, poetry, literature, graphic novels and comics, film, or the book arts will find new treasures here. We have endeavored to stretch your imaginational limits a little, to ask questions that had been left unasked, and to point out the usually ignored connexions between form and content. We are hopeful that visitors to this site will come away richer, more curious, and with a refreshed excitement about the possibilities of art.
We have approached our subject sectionally: we present a general overview of the history of the book (with a particular stress on the place of nonlinearity in that history), a discussion of nonlinear forms in Western literature, an essay on nonlinear narrative in comix, a discussion of nonlinearity in the book arts, an essay on nonlinear narrative in cinema, a look at word games and other diversions with nonlinear structures, and a brief discussion of the future of the book in the electronic age.
We chose our topic because we realized that it is a subject that, previously, had not been specifically addressed on the world wide web. Form cannot function independently of content, just as content cannot exist without form to give it life. Surprisingly, nonlinearity in literature and the interplay between text and book-form have each been separately addressed in various websites (for many of which we have provided links), but the two concepts have not, as far as we have seen, elsewhere been explored in conjunction. Just as the qualities of a work of literature change dramatically when the words are rearranged to affect the reader's process of "translation" (that is, the process of reading), the contents of a book, whether text, pictorial, or both, can change dramatically when the physical structure of the book is altered.
The contents of Is It A Book? are supported by an extensive bibliography, divided into subjects and partially annotated, which includes references to both print and online sources. Use it.
Nonlinearity has, by its very nature, indefinite limits, and therefore we could not attempt to cover the whole of the subject, even only as it applies to literature and art. Constraints of time, patience, and disk space have limited what we could include - therefore we began our exploration of each area with a discussion of the roots of the art form, and then went on to provide some of our favorite examples, those which seem to us to be most particularly descriptive of the points we attempt to make. In the case of our exploration of nonlinear literature, for example, we have included fewer than twenty authors, though there are undoubtedly hundreds we could have chosen. Our selection criteria for authors, artists, and literary and artistic forms is of course highly influenced by our own experience, previous knowledge, and personal tastes.
We will continue to maintain this site indefinitely. We occasionally add additional references, information or website links, and once in a very great while, Emily-Jane adds another section. Since the material we have created will not become dated, there will be no regular maintenance schedule other than periodic dead link checks. Please do not hesitate to email one of us if you spot an error or a problem with our site (Emily-Jane has assumed primary responsibility for updating links and webpage maintenance, but we all welcome your comments, criticisms, and suggestions).
Each section was developed independently of the others, but all are interrelated and as such are interlinked. Each individual page has a link at the lower edge which will take the user to the main index/foyer page, to provide some continuity. There are many links to outside pages throughout our site, which we encourage users to follow if they are interested in pursuing a particular subject in greater depth. Because Is It A Book? has not been linked extensively by other sites, users must return from outside sites by using the back button or key on their browsers.
Users are encouraged to meander through the site, looking at each part in the order that strikes their fancy - such flexibility (nonlinearity) is, after all, one of the greatest benefits of the hypertext format.
The pages are structured as follows:
familiarization info, table of contents, general abstract/statement of purpose
discussion, with links to outside sites
page with alternative alphabet structure pictures
discussion & examples, with links to outside sites
discussion & examples
examples of structures:
venetian blind structure
Laura May 11th, 1995
links to outside gallery sites
discussion & examples
discussion of various alphabet & literary games
lists of related or cited books and websites, broken down into topical sections:
Seldom Asked Questions
questions which are very seldom asked
page of help - where you are right now!
authorship, copyright, & contact information, bragging, thank-yous
Since these pages are highly graphical in nature, they are best accessed via a graphical browser (such as Netscape 2.0 or above, or Internet Explorer 2.0 or above). We have, however, made an especial effort to make the site coherent when used with a text-only browser or reader, though this does eliminate much of its depth & sparkle.
Information on our sources and references can be found on our Bibliography and Credits pages. If you are interested in linking to our site (we love that!) or using part of our work as a reference, please take a look at our more comprehensive copyright statement, or contact us as the following addresses:
firstname.lastname@example.org, Emily-Jane Dawson
email@example.com, Barbara Davison
Karen Drayne (a.k.a. Powell) cannot currently be reached by email.
Foyer | History | Literature | Comix | Book Arts | Cinema | Tricks & Games | Future | Bibliography | S.A.Q. | Assistance | Credits