I have never seen anything like this before.
The novel, As Flies to Whatless Boys, indeed stands on its own as a tremendous piece of literature. I had a difficult time deciding if it was indeed fictional. Antoni is flawless at introducing his readers to how he imagined his “research” process and weaving us in and out of different spaces and time periods. His acknowledgment of the fact that we now live in the digital age is key in deciphering the written language of the emails, the forward tone, and mix of a growing personal touch and less formal/professional messages sent instantly between Mr. Robot and Miss. Ramsol. The way the digital age depends on and writes email and text message is comparable to the way in which Marguerite and Willy had to negotiate their communication in the 1840s. I commend Antoni on creating a space in which we could make a sociological comparison between communication and developing of relationships then and the dependency on words and how we use language now.
I have read novels that have attempted to add emails to provide a “new age” space in their stories but they do not flow as naturally as they do in Antoni’s book. He pays special attention to the use of the digital space both in the literature and on the accompanying website whatlessboys.com. I will tell you that when I googled the book this was NOT one of the first pages to come up on the search, I think that is intentional and somewhat genius. You must flip to the end of the book to realize those asterisks lead you to an online, multimedia space, that provides the visuals you wish were right in front of you the whole time. I understand the critiques made by my fellow classmates of whatlessboys.com but I also don’t think the site was meant to be found easily, without the book or Kindle Fire or iPad, etc. I DO wish there were more videos, but it is only because I thoroughly enjoyed being able to live my imagination by hearing and seeing the ocean’s waves, the camera move through the corridors of the boat, a beautiful soft-faced girl who I can compare to my imagined Marguerite. The visuals of Etzler’s inventions and provided researched articles (rather than just an explanation or a citation) surrounding the trial provided more backdrop for understanding his character and the strong global influence of the industrial revolution. I could write a whole paper on the excitement I have in connecting the dots and comparing the goals of the industrial revolution to the imagined ones of the global digital revolution (I say imagined because I’m not quite sure I can see how far the digital age can stretch!).
To borrow a phrase from fellow classmate Conor, this “literary renaissance” created by Robert Antoni on whatlessboys.com is one that I celebrate as a writer and a reader. It is the first I have ever seen, and I consider this website an introduction to how the digital and media ridden space that is the internet can be a better accompanying source that is easier and more attractive for readers to access the added information than the traditional, text filled and usually ignored appendixes. What a way to create the richest literary experience in the iPad friendly reading age.