22 September 2010

Literature Maps

I was playing with Literature Maps this morning before really getting underway. (One delight of retirement is that I can get up, post something on a professional blog, go for a sunrise walk, read headlines in more than a dozen newspapers, have breakfast and my first coffee, and then consider "getting underway" at 9:30am.)

The Literature Maps are part of Gnod, described on its web site as "a self-adapting system, living on this server and 'talking' to everyone who comes along. Gnods intention is to learn about the outer world and to learn 'understanding' its visitors." I'm not sure what that means, and there's no explanation of how the "system" works. However, if you click on the "Gnod Books" link, you get to a page titled, "gnooks." There you'll find links to the Literature Maps and a discussion about Literature Forms. You'll also find a link to "Gnod's Suggestions," which is where the site gathers data for constructing the Literature Maps. (It collects this data so literally, that typos and misspellings are also collected and republished on the Literature Maps.) At that page, you'll be asked to identify three of your favorite writers. Based on the names you submit, you'll be presented with the name of an author you might like and a link to a Literature Map for that author.

I'd looked at these Literature Maps before, but I hadn't spent much time looking carefully at them. The idea is that if you plug in an author's name, the program will create a "map" of names, and that the closer the names of "two writers are, the more likely [it will be that] someone will like both of them."

I've been tempted before to look at the names that are closest together, but this morning I discovered that the outliers are equally interesting.

So, here are links to Literature Maps for authors I've recently written about and some of my favorites. Using Carol O'Connell as an example, the names closest to hers on the "map" are Gerri Hill, Charles Todd, Maan Meyer, Elizabeth Amber, and Jo Clayton. None of these ring bells with me. However, if I look at the outer edges of this "map," I find the names Walter Mosely, Jonathan Kellerman, John LeCarre, Nevada Barr, Dana Stabenow, Marcia Muller, and Dick Francis, all of whom have written books I've liked. Does that fit with my ambivalent response to the Mallory mysteries?

So, look at some of these Literature Maps or create your own. How well do they reflect your experiences? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you think.

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