In EXIT STRATEGIES: Hannu Rajaniemi

4 Feb

What if your books could read you? Hannu Rajaniemi explores the next step in literary evolution


“I caught a glimpse of the future of books while reading Iain Banks’s The Crow Road for the second time.

The first time I read it was in Finland, in 1998. It made an even stronger impression on me than my first Banks, the exuberant space opera Consider Phlebas. I had barely dipped a toe into the rushing stream of my twenties – the same age as the hapless protagonist Prentice – and I was dealing with university, unrequited love and the infinite awkwardness of early adulthood. The Crow Road assured me it was all going to be okay: a bit messy, with cruel twists and the occasional lightning strike, but basically okay. Even if the same end, the crow road – a Glasgow expression for death – waited for us all.

When I returned to it, nearly fifteen years later, I found a different book. I had lived in Scotland for more than a decade. The imaginary town of Gallanach came alive with association and memory. I could see the clouds over Stornoway. I could smell the heather in the castle ruins. I got the sex jokes. The wonderful strangeness and smallness of humanity, explained in Banks’s gentle voice, rang truer than before. The book had changed with me.

So what was the book? What was The Crow Road if it could change so much between readings, in a way that was almost quantum-mechanical, observer-dependent? Where was its eternal bookness if Banks’s stream of consciousness on its pages was like the river of Heraclitus, into which no one can step twice?

Of course, this question applies to books in general. And the ongoing transformation of books from stacks of bound paper into digital objects is forcing us to rethink what a book really is, and what it could become.”

Read “On crows, roads and the future of books” in Exit Strategies (Arc 2.1). Follow these links to buy your copy now:

– Kindle: UK | US
– Google Play: DRM free ePub
– Zinio for: Apple / Android / PC / Mac
– Nook: UK | US

(Exit strategies is available to buy from all local Amazon sites. Just search for “Arc 2.1”)

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