Alan Sondheim is a prolific writer, musician, and artist who uses the Internet as an inspiration and means for publication. The sheer mass of text he has produced in the past 15+ years is so staggering that it reminds me of Basil Bunting’s “On the Flyleaf of Pound’s Cantos.” To be specific, here are some numbers compiled after cutting and pasting all the text in the files which constitute this portion of Sondheim’s Internet Text:
15,880,841 bytes (almost 16 MB) of pure text.
15,080,183 characters (counting spaces).
7,881 pages of single-spaced 10.5 pt New Courier text with 1” margins.
You could spend a very long time reading his poems— or developing some good data mining tools to “read” Sondheim. As an example I ran all that text through a few word cloud generators (crashing Java-based Wordle and Shockwave-powered ABC Ya) until Tagxedo, which uses Silverlight, gave me good results. The resulting word cloud offers some insight on the themes that pervade Sondheim’s work.
Whatever your strategy, you will get a record of a very intelligent and well read writer and artist for whom the Internet has been a space for reflection, creation, and communication. Dive into whichever text attracts you and get a sense for his writing, keeping in mind that reading Sondheim is like swimming in the ocean: you don’t have to swim the whole thing to enjoy it.Featured in The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1.