Welcome to the FAQ file for The Modern Word. The following questions are some of the most common things people email us about, so please acquaint yourself with this page if you have any requests or inquiries. Note that questions about specific authors or their sites are located on the author pages; so for example, if you have a question about James Joyce, you should check out the Brazen Head first.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is

The Modern Word is a large network of literary sites dedicated to exploring twentieth century writers who have pushed the envelope of traditional narrative and structure. This includes many writers associated with Modernism, surrealism, “magical realism,” and postmodernism. Our mandate includes both writers who have experimented with prose styles and narrative conventions, such as Joyce, Burroughs, or Pynchon, and those who use literary techniques to frame alternate ways of perceiving reality, such as Borges and Philip K. Dick.

Errrr....right. So you have no real guiding credo? Isn’t this all a bit fuzzy?

If this sounds a bit unfocused, that’s something we can live with. Labels, genres, schools, movements – these are things we try to de-emphasize here at The Modern Word. We believe that good literature overflows all boundaries. Of course, there are some elements that many of “our” writers share – the use of allusion and intertextuality; a tendency for “open texts” and self-reflexive narrative; a fondness for word-games, paradox, and linguistic free-play; an embrace of whimsy or deadpan fabulism; and a desire to use language to create a sense of subjective reality.

Why only modern literature?

Basically, we have to draw the line somewhere. Although there are clear antecedents to these writers – Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Sterne, Melville, Wilde – we made a conscious decision to focus on writers stemming from the traditions of Modernism and surrealism.

What about poets and playwrights?

Again, our decsion to include mostly novelists stems only from a desire to set a few boundaries. Of course, there are many non-novelists that belong on this site: Allen Ginsberg, Eugène Ionesco, Ezra Pound, TS Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Octavio Paz, Harold Pinter, Luigi Pirandello, Tom Stoppard – there’s a few, just for starters. Perhaps once we have fleshed out all the deserving novelists, we will start working on the poets and playwrights as well! (Maybe in, say, 2112 AD or so.)

This place looks big. How is it organized?

The Modern Word is composed of several sections:

The Rotunda serves as a literary homepage, and contains elements that may be of interest to any literature fan. It changes daily, and has links to all other areas of the site.

The Libyrinth is the core of the site. It is composed of two elements, the Main Collection and the Scriptorium. The Main Collection is a set of comprehensive author sites, each set up to be a total Web resource on a particular author. The Scriptorium is a section that houses smaller pages on authors who have not yet been developed into a larger site.

The Omphalos is what we call the Site Information page, and holds information about itself, such as notes on who we are, links to other literary Web sites, an archive of reviews, and this FAQ file you are currently reading.

Didn’t this site used to be called The Libyrinth?

Yes. The site was first launched in June 1995 as The Libyrinth, a portmanteau word combining “Library” and “Labyrinth.” The name was changed in May 2000 to reflect the new expansion of the site as a more far-reaching venture.

How many hits do you get?

According to our statistics, The Modern Word recieves about 300,000 visitors each month; of which 130,000 are “unique visitors.” This translates into 12 million monthly hits, 600,000 page views, and an average “stickiness” of 11 minutes.

So who runs The Modern Word?

The Editorial Director of the site is Allen B. Ruch. This fellow, who goes by the nickname of the Quail, is also the one who is writing this FAQ file – I’m the guy who started the Libyrinth back in 1995. As Editorial Director, I supervise a small staff of writers and designers, and as the site grows, we hope to add more site editors. We are guided in turn by the Literary Advisory Board, a top-notch panel of scholars and literary professionals.

Do you answer all your email?

Yes. I run quite a few Web sites and I get over 50 email messages a day. I try to answer most of the letters that people send me; but it usually takes me a few days. Don’t let this discourage you from dropping me a note; I place a tremendous value on feedback of any sort, especially corrections, suggestions, and shameless flattery. Just understand that it may take a bit of time for me to reply. If it is very important and/or time sensitive, such as a request for permission to use Libyrinth materials for an upcoming project, please write IMPORTANT in capital letters in the subject line. I will try to get to it immediately.

I want to get in contact with one of your featured authors. Do you have a postal address or an email address you can pass along to me?

Although several of the authors we deal with are quite dead, and therefore most likely beyond the reach of email, we do get frequent requests for the addresses of living writers. It is not the policy of The Modern Word to provide contact information for any of our authors – we value their privacy, especially in this shrinking global community. If you wish to write one of the authors featured on these sites, I suggest you contact his or her publisher. Your best bet is to visit the publisher’s Web site and get contact information for their publicity department.

Can you offer me help on a school project or a research paper?

We often get asked to provide facts, ideas, topics, and other assistance on a research paper, and occasionally someone asks if we can email them some additional material on an author. Generally speaking, our author sites are quite comprehensive, and if you don’t see the information you are after on the site, the site editor probably does not have it. Additionally, we support the time-honored theory of good, honest work, and strongly discourage letters requesting help on school assignments.

What if I want to help?

There are many ways that people can help out The Modern Word. We are always open to suggestions of any kind – just email them to us. If you want to take a more active role, that would be great. Some possibilities include:

  • Submitting new information on almost any topic. (A song based on Joyce, or some new biographical data for Eco)
  • Submitting a book review. If you’d like to review a book for The Modern Word, please contact me first. We do ask that our reviews be informed, literate, and fairly comprehensive.
  • Writing commentary about books, movies, etc. that have been listed but have not yet “covered.” (A Spanish film on a García Márquez story, or a book of essays by Eco)
  • Submitting original creations to already existing pages (A new “imaginary” book for the Crimson Hexagon, or an original image for “The White Visitation.”)
  • Submitting research papers, essays, or other original writing. (A critical analysis of Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist,” or a paper on “John Cage, Norse Runes, Quantum Theory, Quails, and the Imaginary Number System and Finnegans Wake.”)

We welcome submissions and ideas of any kind, and will, of course, make sure you get full credit for all original writings. We do, however, reserve the right to edit any submission and eventually remove a submission if the need arises. If your submission concerns a specific author who already has a page or site on the Libyrinth, it is best if you email the site editor directly. If you would like more guidelines about making contributions, please see our Submissions page.

What about help or involvement on a more professional or academic level?

The Modern Word is always considering new site editors for the construction of additional author sites and Scriptorium pages. A site editor should be very knowledgeable about an author, and be able to commit some serious time to the development and maintenance of the site or page. Grad students, professors, and independent scholars are preferred. If you think you may be qualified, please email me for more information.