Jeremy Osner of READIN has brought to my attention a remarkable site called The Modern Word, “the Web’s largest site devoted to exploring twentieth-century experimental literature.” It’s run by Allen Ruch (“though I generally go by my nickname of the Quail”), and I’ll let him explain further:

The Modern Word is a large site, and one that’s been through many changes since its inception. It began in 1995 as The Libyrinth, a portmanteau word coined to represent the two common themes I felt ran through much modern literature – the Library and the Labyrinth… After five years of growing as the Libyrinth, the site was re-dedicated in May 2000 as The Modern Word, its borders greatly expanded but dedicated to the same goal – to celebrate and explore the works of these amazing authors, from the past metamorphoses of Kafka to the Ecos of the future.

Authors are reviewed for inclusion by our Literary Advisory Board, who work closely with the Editorial Director to ensure a quality slate of authors who meet our “libyrinthian” standards. And though the writers featured here are primarily considered “postmodern,” we try not to limit our selection to any specific literary school, circle, or movement. Essentially, for an author to be considered for the site, his or her writing should not only be of sufficient literary quality, but significantly touch upon one or more of the following elements:
1. A use of language that calls upon the reader to break through the barriers of normal syntax and linguistics, acting as an invitation to probe the text and explore the space beyond the words themselves.
2. A tendency to allow consensual reality to relax or even dissolve; this may range from occasional hallucinatory prose to magical realism to outright fantasy.
3. A density of style that is multi-layered with allusions to both the body of work itself and the vast and eternal library of work beyond its pages – an awareness of the eternal human dialogue, so to speak.
James Joyce was the first author to be featured, followed by Borges, Gabriel García Márquez, Umberto Eco, Thomas Pynchon, Samuel Beckett and Franz Kafka. Future authors under consideration include William Faulkner, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, and many others. We are also considering the addition of poets and playwrights such as Octavio Paz, T.S. Eliot, and Tom Stoppard, to name a few.

I’m surprised they don’t mention Nabokov, but I trust he’s one of the “many others.” Anyway, the site is multifarious. Enjoy.


  1. jeanipierre says

    An interesting site. It calls to mind the Project Gutenberg, whose goal is to make available many books for free via the Internet, using FTP. I don’t know how to make a link, but here’s the URL:

  2. TMW is one of my favorites. In the early days of the web, when I was a stubborn cyberskeptic, a knowing girlfriend used it to lure me online. It was called The Libyrinth then. I’m hugely indebted to The Quail. Happy exploring.

  3. I discovered the Libyrinth in 1997, which I suppose is early days, webwise.
    A lovely site that I visited many times. The Garcia-Marquez site was, I remember, exemplary. I’ll pop in and have another look-see.
    And badger the Great Quail about Sirin.

  4. TMW is in addition to being a great resource information-wise, one of the best designed sites out there. Nabokov is included in the Scriptorium because as Allen explains, he already has a fine web site devoted to his work — if you are not familiar with Zembla, well, what are you waiting for — hie thence! It shares with TMW both attributes I mentioned in the first sentence of this comment.

  5. Ah, that makes sense. I am familiar with Zembla, and I guess it wouldn’t be a high priority to do a similar site.

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