Thursday, August 23, 2007

A long time coming

It seems, then, that Juneteenth was but a fraction of the work Ellison left behind. A more comprehensive restoration of the book, with title and page count still to be finalized, will come out via Modern Library "early next year."
Callahan had long been mystified by something they discovered going through the endless files of Ellison's work. Scenes written to near perfection in the '50s and '60s would be revisited, and rewritten, 25 years later. If only Ellison had just gone forward instead of obsessing about sections that had already been polished, Callahan reasoned, "I believe he could have finished the novel in the 1970s. It's really sad."

But Bradley began to think he knew the answer: Ellison -- who had a lifelong fascination with technology and compulsively took apart radios and put them back together -- became seduced by the new machine, by the way he could move paragraphs up and down the screen, insert new words and delete old ones instantaneously. As he transferred his earlier work to the new medium, the words exploded. The shifting and shaping of his second novel became a new kind of mania.

Bradley went back over disks containing certain scenes, spreading out the printouts again and even painstakingly color-coding them in comparison with scenes that had been written on a manual typewriter.

...As Ellison's computer use progressed, nearly every paragraph and page underwent a similar inflation. At one point, Ellison was working with three computers. He seemed a man dizzied by technology, a NASA operator in the control room thrilled by the machinery who has lost sight of the mission, of the rockets aloft.

In Ellison's case, of course, it wasn't a rocket's trajectory he lost track of, but his book's.

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