Salvatore Pane

Tag: Dante’s Inferno

Digital Distribution? Video Games? Marvel Illustrated? The iWhat?

In my Salinger post a few days ago, I made a quick jab towards the end about the video game-ization (I coined it here first, folks) of novels. So in case you haven’t heard the news, the 14th century Divine Comedy is being converted into a video game by EA, the same company responsible for this. Numerous sites have already lamented the transformation of Dante’s words into a corpse-littered action game, so I won’t belabor the subject. What’s interesting to me is what’s next. Take, for example, Penny Arcade’s take on where this could go in  the future:

This is obvious farce, but it does bear the question of what shapes literary fiction will be made to fit in the future. Are we that far away from an Old Man and the Sea game? Maybe something that fleshes out the conquering back story of Othello? And what happens when we throw other forms of media in the mix? For years now, Marvel Comics has been adapting great literary works that have fallen into the public domain into graphic novels. That’s all one branch of their publishing house, Marvel Illustrated, works on. Check out their takes on Pride and Prejudice, The Odyssey, and yes, a deluxe, hardcover edition of the aforementioned Moby Dick.

So how will literary fiction be represented in the future? Writers are already bemoaning the fact that they have to keep up blogs and concoct elaborate viral videos even as major publishing houses slash their advertising budgets or focus everything on a few mega-blockbusters. What will happen when the release of a new novel must coincide with a tie-in video game and comic book? Will the actual work on the page suffer? Improve? Stay the same?

Obviously, e-readers like the Kindle are one way this whole digital distribution thing may shake out, but perhaps you’ve heard of Apple’s iPad, a project so long in development you can find cave paintings about its impending arrival. The iPad has promised to revolutionize the print industry through iBook, a digital distribution system/eReader. With the iPad and a wifi connection, users will be able to download books, order magazine subscriptions and even purchase comics without ever leaving their home. And the best part is that everything’s in color and the text can be displayed in two appealing ways: horizontally and vertically. It doesn’t resemble the monochromatic Kindle that looks suspiciously like my Gameboy circa 1989. It doesn’t matter if you think eReaders are the worst thing to happen to literature since Dan Brown. If the iPad has even a fraction of the impact on the book market that the original iPod had on the music industry, then we’re on the precipice of a major turning point for how the publishing industry will operate. There’s no point in commiserating. 

And if all this news about the digital is too much for you to handle, I suggest you take a deep breath, relax, and check this out.  It’s the Angry Video Game Nerd reading the novelization of Mega Man 2 in its 90 minute entirety. Enjoy.



He Always Stands a Chance of Becoming a Man

J.D Salinger is dead. A lot of people much smarter than me have already discussed this.  Over on Slate, Chris Wilson avoided an outright eulogy and instead touted “Seymour: An Introduction” as the deceased writer’s greatest work (Not true. Not even close).  Via Twitter, Bret Easton Ellis mocked the writer’s death and planned a celebratory party. And all across Facebook you can find various people who haven’t read much since high school claiming that old Jerome was their favorite author, and that they’ll miss him dearly.

What I’d like to address is the question of what Salinger will be known for. Will future scholars look back on his brief career and modest output of literary fiction, or will they remember the nearly fifty years of silence and all the memoirs and bizarre legal wranglings?  All writers hope to be remembered by the words left behind, the monk-like work done at the desk, and hopefully that will be the case with J.D. But one can certainly imagine a world in the not too distant future where Catcher in the Rye is purged from high schools much in the way A Separate Peace has fallen out of favor. It’s esoteric. It’s out of touch. The fragmented American identity no longer bears any tangible resemblance to that phony Holden Caufiled. And if Salinger loses his millions of guaranteed new readers each year from mandatory high school English classes, then it will be left to fans of literary fiction to remember the slim volume left behind by Salinger just like readers who still champion the work of other mid-century writers like Cheever and Updike even though they too have fallen off reading lists.

So what will last? What is remembered? Clearly, Catcher in the Rye will live on, but what about Salinger’s short fiction? Why does it seem that very few people when discussing Salinger’s work bring up Nine Stories? For my money, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “For Esme–With Love and Squalor” are two of the finest examples of short fiction from not only the waning days of post-World War II traditional realism, but of any era. And surely Salinger devotees will remember Franny and Zooey and even the first novella of Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction with nostalgia. So what I hope for is that in the following weeks, when commentators discuss his strange post-literary career and the possibility of movies, sequels or even video games, we stop and remember the work Salinger shared with us. I hope we will remember the only part of him or herself that a writer can leave behind: the words, the words, the words.