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- Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Tim Romano <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 25 Sep 2001 07:10:29 -0400
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- Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
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Prodigal Tim,
Your HTML sins are forgiven. Go forth a new geek. ;-)

To be fair, you did offer the disclaimer that the page was "muddy" -- I
brought up CSS mainly because with CSS it is possible to have our cake and
eat it too.  If each line-segment were wrapped in a <div> or <span> tag,
with a custom class identifying, among other things, the indentation-value
of its column position, then it would be possible, merely by switching the
style sheet, to display the lines broken or unbroken. I will put together a
demo page in the near future; I'll have to bone up on the javascript
required to switch CSS dynamically.

As for the Eisenstein and Johnson analogies-- they don't hold, in that
publishers DID have wider page formats -- but they were too expensive to
"waste" on avant-garde poetry which was likely to be soon remaindered.

I'm not saying that narrow columns are bad, and in fact I agree with you
about the eye-strain caused by a long line, especially with small
print.  Pound suffered from such eye strain. (See Pound's letters to e.e.
cummings, where this subject comes up in the context of page-design.) But
the right font in the right size (both of which are adjustable by the HTML
end-user) and the proper spacing between lines can mitigate that strain.

Tim Romano

At 09:06 PM 9/24/01 -0700, Tim Bray wrote:
>At 05:55 PM 24/09/01 -0400, Tim Romano wrote:
> >Any reason why you eschewed CSS?
>Oh dear, mea maxima culpa.  I did it in 1997, that's why.
>But for the benefit of the nonwebgeeks in the audience, Mr.
>Romano is totally correct; this could be done much better, more
>efficiently and more portably using CSS.  Mind you, it wouldn't
>work in Netscape 4.*, but this is an increasingly small price
>to pay.
> >On a literary note: I'm not yet convinced that the indentations are
> >actually called for. They seem to be Pound's concession to the original
> >typesetters, given the narrowness of the page he could reasonably expect a
> >publisher to offer, a concession that he might not have made had the page
> >widths been more ample.
>Well, er, yes.  But Robert Johnson didn't have electric guitars
>and Eisenstein didn't have digital special effects, and they
>both did OK.  And in my opinion the Cantos pages are on average
>pretty darn nice looking... concessions to the medium at hand
>have on balance typically not got in the way of an artist who's
>on his game.
> > Inasmuch as the HTML "page" is like an opened book
> >that has no binding crease, HTML offers twice the page-width, in a manner
> >of speaking. Under modern circumstances, Pound might like to see his lines
> >unbroken on the virtual page.
>Well, some of the best commercial typography and page design
>on current offer - in both good magazines and good web sites -
>make pretty heavy use of multiple narrow columns, because it's
>a pleasant way to read.  The eye seems more naturally to move
>down than across.  There are all sorts of quantitative studies
>of this stuff for those who care.
>I wonder if any authorial/editorial choice went into the Cantos'
>placement of breaks in lines that are apparently due only to the
>page size?  Some of them seem a bit too tuneful to be the result
>of chance.  On a related note, nobody thinks the use of "wd" for
>"would" is done to save space. -Tim