As soon as the world of Tailspin by Christine Wilks is open, there is movement and sound. Intricate designs grow and move in the background as the shape of an ear appears. If one did not read the description of the piece before entering, the ear would seem confusing, but after reading, it becomes clear that sound is crucial to this piece because of the grandfather’s tinnitus. I tried to do some research behind spiral shapes and their meanings, but did not stumble across anything that made it clear why the author chose to have swirling spirals as the point on a screen to click on. The reason could have very well been because Wilks just needed a shape or a spot for the reader to click. As you roll over the spirals, words fade into view to reveal part of a story. What happens next will be different for every reader because one may not roll over the spirals in the same order as another. I like the fact that everything does connect. The spirals could have been blurbs of unrelated pieces of text, but it connected to a larger story.
The story mostly centered around the lives of the mother, her two boys, the dad, and the grandfather. There are moments in the story that trails back to when the grandfather was in the war. Animations and caricatures sometimes moved across the screen as the story unfolded. At times, rolling over a spiral would result in the background transforming into a sky and plane would fly around. Once all of the black spirals on a single page is rolled over, a blue spiral will appear usually toward the center of the page to click on and move the reader to the next set of pieces to the story. I felt there was some sort of clear ending even though it may seem impossible in any type of electronic literature setting. There was a point where I was able to get to a red spiral in the center, and that brought me to the credits.
Some of the spirals will have noses associated with them, in addition to the ongoing clinking of the grandchildren’s toys and the buzzing of tinnitus in the grandfather’s ear. Moments of the story even went back to when the grandfather might have been flying a plane and bullet sounds will blare out of the speakers. I can understand the feel the author might have been going for with such intense sound throughout the piece. The feel of the world reminds me of simulators that let individuals experience the kind of illness or disability another person has. I feel that the world is a great way to step into another person’s shoes and get to experience what is happening from the grandfather’s point of view. I can only imagine how annoying the constant ringing and buzzing is to him. All of the different moving parts on the screen emphasize how distracting it is to have so much going on at once.
The ability for a person to hear and the implications that the text makes allude to the fact that hearing is vital to human life. While some with hearing defects learn about the world in a different way to be able to adjust/adapt, if one is able to hear, they are automatically at an advantage and have a different view of the world than others. I felt a sort of weight once the author wrote “He can’t hear birdsong anymore” (Wilks “Tailspin”). I also felt there was a very distinct way in which the author went about sound so differently, and that was manifested when I’d roll over a piece of text and hear some of the words within it in a muffled shout. This aspect was creepy at first, but it is such a prevalent and striking detail. Overall, I didn’t know how much I would like this piece when I first started navigating it, but I feel like I found more joy in picking it apart than actually being immersed in the world and getting to go through it and navigate it.