New search engine connects literary dots

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 4, 2012 at 6:43 am •  Published: December 4, 2012
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Each sub-category links to other sub-categories. Click on the icon for "The Star Spangled Banner" and you'll see a list of other books mentioning it, among them the unlikely bedfellows Joseph Heller's "Catch'22" and Ronald Reagan's memoir "An American Life." Click on the cover image of "Don Quixote," which is referred to in "Team of Rivals," and you'll find additional background on the Cervantes novel and a "Buy" tab that allows you to purchase it from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and independent stores.

Publishers are sensitive to letting outside companies use copyrighted text and several members of the Association of American Publishers sued Google when the Internet giant began collecting snippets from books without permission. But Small Demons has the cooperation of most of the major publishers. One of the first was Simon & Schuster, where authors include Stephen King, Bob Woodward and David McCullough.

"It was a unique approach that looked at the interior of books and provided discovery and browsing of books by utilizing fun and imaginative concepts," said Simon & Schuster's chief digital officer, Ellie Hirschhorn. She cites a Simon & Schuster book, Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs," as a text she enjoyed exploring. "Jobs himself was such a curious guy and his story had everything from Bob Dylan to marijuana to Bill Gates. It's a fun way to drill around."

Dani Shapiro became curious about Small Demons after she learned that her novel "Black & White" was included. Published in 2008, the book tells of a daughter trying to escape the influence of her mother, a famous photographer. The book is rich in literary and pop culture, from Shakespeare to "The Flintstones." Shapiro herself was surprised by some of the references catalogued.

"Honestly I didn't even remember some of them, especially when they're bumped up against one another like a strange, out-of-time fantasy dinner party. Nietzsche next to Warhol next to Kant and Meryl Streep! But philosophy and the 1980s art world and fame are central preoccupations of that novel," Shapiro wrote in a recent email. "I find it fascinating to see the cultural and historical references, especially in fiction, laid out visually — sort of a Rorschach test of the writer's mind and preoccupations."

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Online:

http://www.smalldemons.com