(Small) Demonology

Posted by Tobias Carroll

This weekend, I took a look at Small Demons, currently in beta. I’ve read a few intriguing things about the site, and set out (invite in hand) to take a look. It doesn’t hurt that one of the folks working there is Richard Nash, best known around these parts as an editor who knows a thing or two about literary communities. And their introductory video is full of nice uses of slightly outdated technology — notably, the VCR that looks like it was borrowed from my high school circa 1992.

It makes for an interesting database — one of the featured sections right now is “Music from A Visit From the Goon Squad,” which makes a lot of sense. It’s a sort of springboard for points of reference — and when you have a writer fond of abundant cultural references in their work, the idea of having everything in one place where it can be pivoted to purchase or further research said points of reference seems like a solid one. (The page for George Pelecanos’s Shame the Devil is a fine example; admittedly, Pelecanos is the sort of writer whose knowledge of music, from 60s soul to 90s punk and beyond, is seamlessly integrated into his work, so this is not a huge shock.)

I remain curious about the “My Library” feature — I’d be interested to see if I can link something existing to this (my GoodReads account, say) or start from scratch. And the potential in the system — being able to easily reference the albums reviewed in a collection of work from Alex Ross or Ellen Willis, or finding a cross-section of novels that reference your favorite film — seems impressive, especially if you’re something of a data nerd. (Spoiler: I am.) More generally, I’m curious to see where they go from here — how the experience of the site will differ for those encountering it on their computers vs. those viewing it on mobile devices, and how things will look once users are able to establish profiles. Right now, there’s an impressive amount of data to behold; how that data is used (beyond its current state) remains to be seen.

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