Writing Under Constraint

Writing Under Constraint


ebr10, a satisfyingly even number published at the turn of the millennium, seemed at the time like the right occasion for calling an end to issues altogether. In the event, we would not manage to eliminate issues until February 2002 - that palindromic month and year, as satisfying in its way as the y2k.

ebr10 writing under constraint winter 1999/2000

Pushing forward with a topic introduced in the spring 1999 ‘gathering of threads,’ we offer here a cluster of essays on contemporary literatures - in print and online - self-consciously written under constraint. Only, this time, given the convergence of our timeline with the turn of the year, we decided to impose a working constraint on ourselves: we asked for essays between 1999 and 2000 words in length. That requirement was accepted, in good spirit, by Paul Braffort, Bernardo Schiavetta, and issue editor Jan Baetens. It kept everyone aware of the conditions under which, and the year toward which, we were writing.

As the deadline approached, however, and our file organizers automatically adjusted to accomodate our first double-digit issue, we became conscious of another constraint that has silently shaped the ongoing development of the journal. Because this constraint has been, until now, accepted in silence (in fact, it is an unconsidered paradigm inherited from print media), its power over the journal design and construction has been more pervasive than any constraint - however rigid and arbitrary - that we might conceive and follow voluntarily.

Hence, this seems like a good moment to reconsider the long network of single themed issues that have defined ebr up to now. Ten is a good number for rounding off a series. The countdown is complete; the line has served its time. In this spirit of millennial closure, the winter 1999/2000 issue of ebr will be the last written under the constraint of periodical publication. [hah! - ed.]

In the coming year, as the editors redesign the journal (our second site overhaul since we began publishing in the winter of 1995), contributions will appear singly, accompanied by responses in the riPOSTe section. These will be, on the model of John Matthias’s overview of British poetry in this issue, essays that work toward generalization, defining the state of the art in fiction, poetry, theory, and their criticism as each genre redefines itself and jostles for position within the media ecology. We’re not sure yet what the new design is going to look like (although we expect it to self-organize through a database). But one thing we’re certain about is that the audience will be invited to play a more active role. With this in mind, and with the intention of creating a culture of audience interaction, the editors will be holding an online charette open to the public, in a series of email essays [in the event: these were presented in February 2002 as the first End Construction! cluster. - ed]. An email message - sent to editor@electronicbookreview.com - will put you on the list of readers who receive each new post as it appears, along with invitations to respond, formally or informally, as the overviews go online.

Joseph Tabbi