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Reviews in Brief

Coffeehouse Writings From the Web
Edited by Levi Asher and Christian Crumlish
Manning Publications, $24.95 paper

Reviewed by Trystan L. Bass

If there's anything that separates "Web writing" from writing in general, this book won't or can't define it. Only rarely does the online context become relevant or even apparent in the pieces collected here. "8 Minutes" by Martha Conway is one of the few works that is explicitly about people online, and the portrait of cyberheads as painfully laid-back and owning more computer cables than furniture will strike some as pretty close to the bone. But other pieces, such as Michael Janssen's amusing "Ode to Grape-Nuts" or Scott W. Williams' political "Nigga What Couldnt Fine No Work" are about as nonwired as you can get without resorting to chiseled stone. Not much holds this collection together--the subject matter ranges from bigamy to metaphysics to expatriates in Japan. But the variety does makes Coffeehouse Writings From the Web easy to pick up and read at random. Perhaps in that respect, the collection accurately represents the fragmented, aimless quality of so much of what's on the Web.

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From the Nov. 6-12, 1997 issue of Metro.

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