[Air-l] Authors in their Sites

Ken Friedman ken.friedman at bi.no
Fri May 18 22:05:36 PDT 2001

       (C) Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company -- The Boston Globe


      Authors in their Sites

      Fans turned archivists use the Web
      to honor their favorite writers

      By Mark Feeney, Globe Staff

  The Web is the ultimate library, an assemblage of texts unprecedented in
  human history. Within its virtual confines, one can even occasionally find
  good, old, honest-to-Gutenberg authors - the kind who put words on paper
  as well as screen.

  There's one big difference, of course: On the Web, authors' writings
  aren't found on shelves but at sites devoted to their lives and works.
  The individuals who tend such sites may be the closest thing this global
  library has to librarians.

  Actually, as the three individuals profiled here demonstrate, "librarian"
  doesn't begin to do their self-appointed vocation justice. Each is part
  fan, part archivist, part technician, using the resources of the Web to
  pay tribute to an author he or she loves. It's a unique joining of the old
  fashioned with the up to the minute: for with these sites, as with
  creation itself, in the beginning was the word.

  Proprietor: Curt Gardner, 39
  Home: San Francisco
  Work: software implementer
  Author: Don DeLillo
  Address: www.perival.com/delillo
  Began: early 1996

  It was in college, as a computer-science major at Wesleyan, that Curt
  Gardner first heard of Don DeLillo. Surfing the Web some 15 years later,
  he was dismayed by how little he could find about the author. So Gardner
  decided to try to come up with a site like the one he'd hoped to come

  ''My vision was to create a place where the average DeLillo reader would
  feel at home,'' he says. Gardner also had an aim that he describes as
  ''fairly grandiose,'' which is ''to essentially document everything known
  about DeLillo.''

  The contents of his site include what one might expect (reviews of
  DeLillo's books, interviews with him) as well as what one might not (the
  novelist Salman Rushdie reports on attending a Yankees game with DeLillo:
  ''He goes there with his mitt. He's up there for every fly ball.'').

  Gardner doesn't find running the site to be at all onerous. During its
  first year of operation, he recalls, he haunted the University of
  California at Berkeley library system, tracking down material. Since
  then, he estimates he's spent no more than two hours a week working on
  it. ''It's a fun pastime,'' he says, ''and it puts me in touch with
  DeLillo fans from all over. Almost daily I get e-mail from an
  appreciative visitor, and I also get many postable items from people who
  send me links.''

  Gardner met DeLillo at a San Francisco reading in 1997 and sent him
  printouts from the page. ''I respect his wishes to keep some things
  private,'' Gardner says. ''But let's just say he gave his blessing to the

  Proprietor: Richard Lane, 33
  Home: New York
  Work: editor, ''Dateline NBC''
  Author: Thomas Pynchon
  Address: www.pynchonfiles.com
  Began: May 31, 1998

  ''I created the site out of a jaw-dropping admiration for the man,'' says
  Richard Lane. Thomas Pynchon is an ideal subject for a Web site: a
  famously reclusive author who has many fanatical readers interested in
  any scrap of information about him they can come by. In addition, Lane
  points out, ''The encyclopedic content of Pynchon's work lends itself
  perfectly to the hyperlink format.''

  Site contents range from photos of Pynchon as an 18-year-old Navy seaman
  (and of the destroyer he served on) to the complete text of an obscure
  report on public disturbances in Malta in 1919 that helped inspire the
  epilogue to Pynchon's first novel, ''V.''

  Lane sees his mission as ''providing a conduit for information that the
  novelist isn't providing.'' Sometimes that can lead to a certain strain
  on the conduit. ''There are foreign visitors who assume I'm [Pynchon],
  others who wanted all his books and critical work sent along, gratis. And
  soon.'' There was also a recent query from a prominent Web site wondering
  how to get Pynchon to review restaurants. Lane, who has had no contact
  with the author, could offer no help.

  Such distractions are a small price to pay for the site, Lane feels.
  ''I've learned more by stepping on Pynchon's shadow than I ever could
  have imagined from a novelist. The confluence of ideas and tangents that
  merely thinking about his work induces is a great gift of which he should
  be justly proud.''

  Proprietor: Sandye Utley, 49
  Home: Cincinnati
  Work: administrative assistant, WCET-TV
  Author: T. Coraghessan Boyle
  Address: www.tcboyle.net
  Began: Feb. 21, 2000

  ''There's such joy in his writing,'' Sandye Utley says. She was already a
  fan of his novels and short stories when she met T. Coraghessan Boyle at
  an award ceremony in Washington, D.C., 16 months ago. He accepted her
  offer to set up a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page for the site
  Boyle runs, www.tcboyle.com.

  Utley came up with so many references to Boyle-related articles and
  reviews she decided to set up a free-standing site.

  ''It could easily be a full-time job,'' she says, describing the site as
  ''a never-ending proposition.'' Contents run the gamut from audio clips
  of Boyle interviews and readings to listings of his public appearances to
  a recipe (in Dutch, no less) for Baked Camel With Filling, a dish that
  figures in Boyle's novel ''Water Music.''

  Utley estimates she spends $300 a year on tcboyle.net. The biggest
  expense isn't financial, however, but temporal: the hundreds of hours she
  has put into site construction and doing Boyle research. She doesn't
  begrudge the commitment, though. She exchanges e-mail with Boyle, and it
  gratifies her that he approves of the site (he described a recent
  redesign as ''Molto cool. Very classy.''). Even more important, perhaps,
  there's the sense of camaraderie the site inspires.

  ''The people I hear from are an intelligent, witty band of readers (some
  of them Tom's own friends) who love the work. In sharing that common
  bond, they all feel like my friends, too.''

       (C) Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company -- The Boston Globe

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