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Lose yourself in this Libyrinth of literature.

Byline: By Daniel Thomson

Literary fiction and the web may seem like strange bedfellows, but they have more in common than people might think.

The net gives writers, editors and lovers of literature an almost unlimited forum to discuss and explore the great works that have changed their lives.

And people have exploited this freedom to create some fascinating websites.

The Modern Word is one of these.

Dedicated to exploring 20th Century experimental literature, www.themodernword.com is a website that will truly expand your mind.

Formerly known as The Libyrinth, the site was created in 1995 to celebrate and study the works of authors such as James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Thomas Pynchon, Umberto Eco and Samuel Beckett.

Although the site seems dauntingly vast at first glance it is actually quite easy to find your way around, thanks to its ingenious design.

The site is organised into three main sections, The Rotunda, The Libyrinth and The Omphalos, which each offer different levels of access to the Modern Word's vast content.

The Modern Word was founded by Allen B Ruch, who created the site while working as a high school chemistry teacher and freelance web designer in the US.

He now works at Columbia University in New York and is the editorial director and chief content provider for the www.themodernword.com

Allen had a life-long love of literature and wanted to create a resource for studying the authors who had changed his life.

He says: "What I wanted was something to pull it all together, some kind of crayon to connect all the dots. The world was alive with this great conversation, carried out in books over hundreds of years ( all I wanted to do was take a more active role.

"Then one day in 1995 I got hooked up to the web. What can I say? We all know that feeling, we all have tasted the next big thing and have had our minds spun dizzy with the sheer potential.

"I was no different, and almost immediately I begged my friend to give me a hand in designing a website. I realised that there were far too many useless pages on the web, so I wanted to make sure that mine had a function, a reason for existence.

"The Libyrinth, later re-named The Modern Word, was my attempt to apply some sort of quasi-organisational structure to my love of literature.

"Technology has provided me with this opportunity, and I would have been crazy not to take it. I had to take it ( I was almost compelled to create this sprawling monstrosity."

The Modern Word is now one of the largest sites devoted to experimental literature on the net with a dedicated following and a staff of qualified literary advisors who contribute to its pages. Packed with features, reviews, interviews and columns as well as detailed sub-sites on key authors such as Joyce, Borges and Marquez, www.themodernword.com should be on the favourites list of everyone who loves literary fiction.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 4, 2005
Words:501
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