Letter to Lunis: My Doubts as an Elit Scholar!

This week, I will be focusing on the elit piece, Letter to Lunis. This week’s post might be one on the shorter side, I did not quite grasp the concept of this piece. Even though the navigation and language within Letter to Lunis is very clearly and simplistic, there is still some self doubt in my true understanding. So without further adieu, let’s jump into Letter to Lunis!

Overview of the readings

To be quite honest, this week’s reading has me completely stomped. From the overview descriptions of Letter to Linus, my understanding of this piece is that it uses a hypertext cube as a navigation. The poetry appears in random orders, depending on which part of the cube you are choosing to click.

Deeper Reflection

There was not too much deep reflection due to my misunderstanding of the piece, or the lack of understanding all together…. I wanted to take time to reference one of my fellow elite scholars, Amber, in her experience with this piece:

“My experience of Linus was certainly one of disorientation. The order I followed from the beginning resulted in, “Away the sun, shut off language, lock up the revolution, blow out the public, break in your feelings, and cut down resistance.” After I reached the end, I went back through a few times to see if rearranging the order would help me understand any better, but I feel I was left with more” 

I felt a little unsure about my own understanding of this piece, so I decided to read Ambers and see what she has to say about it (FYI she is very intuitive about a lot of our elit readings!). Seeing that she had the same questions and ideology about this piece, I do not feel a s bad. But I am looking forward to what Sun has to say about this piece when she presents tonight! 

Some of the significant textual elements

The main textual evidence that was apparent to me is the use of the hypercube as the digital medium of hosting the poetry. I was bit curious about what exactly is a hypercube, so I decide to look up the definition:

“In geometry, a hypercube is an n-dimensional analogue of a square (n = 2) and a cube (n = 3). It is a closed, compact, convex figure whose 1-skeleton consists of groups of opposite parallel line segments aligned in each of the space’s dimensions, perpendicular to each other and of the same length.”

From this definition brought me to wonder… I am really that lost on the concept of this piece.   

How I choose to navigate this text

I choose to navigate through this piece by simply following the instructions in the opening of the piece. Like I stated early, this piece was pretty simple to navigate through. There was no specific order that Letter to Lunis required us to follow or figure out (at least to my understanding).

Letter to Linus. Wait it’s not about Peanuts Linus!? AS IF!! (I joke).

Image result for a letter to linux

What I interpreted from my reading of Letter to Linus, is that it’s about words, language, and the forces that are at work to regulate, patent, exploit and encrypt our language. It is structured by short lines on the six faces of a cube. The six boldface words also form a kind of poetic refrain: cut, shut, blow, break, take, lock. The hypercube reminds me of a Rubik’s cube and of this old M.A.S.H paper game me and my girlfriend’s used to play as little girls at slumber parties. It consisted of a folded up piece of paper, kind of like a diamond shape, but similar to the hypercube, it had words and phrases on each folded square of the paper throughout. When I first opened this piece I saw the cube and thought to myself: “Ah, this will be easy enough!” Yeah right! Again, when it comes to electronic literature we must expect the unexpected. The adventure begins into this mysterious dystopian world of Linus! I have to admit I was semi disappointed that it wasn’t about Linus from the Peanuts gang! Oh how I love him so! He was one of my favorite characters from the series. His emotional attachment to his fuzzy, favorite, tattered blanket and his sweet demeanor stole my heart. Let’s not forget how he totally stole the show during the classic: It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Okay, I digress. Again, forgive me for my tangents guys! Is it just me, or does the hypercube look like a piece of folded up paper that you can easily crumple up and throw away? Hmm. Maybe it’s just me.

See the source image

I did some quick, not any real extensive research on the hypercube because I had never heard of such a thing. So here’s what I got: a hypercube is a work of electronic fiction based on the structure of a cube. It comprises of six pages, each of which links to four others. Letter to Linus uses this form to explore, through six points of view, the politics of electronic literature. The reader clicks on a phrase, which leads to a poem related to that specific phrase. When the reader has finished reading a poem, he or she chooses a phrase related to a verb at the end of the last stanza, and moves onto the next poem. All of the poems or prose center around the human need for language and expression. The poems take place in a not-too-distant future, where the narrator of the poems struggles to find the right words for a letter to Linus, a talented poet. I think? The mysterious writer begs Linus to return to the city because communication and educational systems are starting to fall apart. Libraries are in ruins and local dialects are beginning to die out. The reader discovers that the government and corporations have patented languages. Words are bought and sold like stocks, and corporations churn out new languages each year.  The rich can speak freely, but the poor must resort to pirating dictionaries. To me I began to see a clearer picture of what this electronic literature piece was all about, I think? It’s the exploration of our language, words, our speech and of our self expression and how it is being exploited and tarnished.

See the source image

These poems had a hint of desperation in each one that I read. Each side of the cube that I clicked on and read aloud left me feeling uneasy and anxious. Who is Linus I wondered? Is he for or against the exploitation and degradation of our language? I think Linus is a poet, who the letter writer desperately wants to contact, so that Linus can return home, so he himself can see the sad state that our language and speech has degraded into. I think the author of this piece William Gillespie, needed hypertext to show that each poem acts as a piece of a puzzle. More like a complicated jigsaw puzzle, I thought to myself as I clicked on each square. We the readers or participants of this piece, try to find out what happened to Linus, why he is so important, and why the letter writer is so desperate for his return. Again, I’m not sure I have the answer to these questions or that we are supposed to? The clues are present in the poems, semi hidden, some more blatant. These clues range from the letters to Linus, to an advertising jingle for a company who patents the English language, to a hushed conversation in an apartment during a civil war.  Each poem is a multi dimensional vivid portrayal, of a multi dimensional dystopian world, just as a hypercube is dimensional and made of separate pieces.

Image result for linus letter writing

Finally, I found that reading the poems in a different order gave me a new interpretation of Letter to Linus. When I first read the poems, I ended on an ambiguous note, with the potential return of Linus, or maybe not. When I read them in a different order the second and third time around, the poems ended pessimistically, with Linus giving into government propaganda. I think? Maybe? Maybe not? Like I stated in my previous blog posts, each piece of electronic literature we have read so far, is open to our own unique and distinct interpretations. That’s what makes this type of literature so affecting and thought provoking. I enjoy reading your blog posts every week to gain some new perspective and insights into these pieces. You guys open my eyes to important things I couldn’t see within each piece. Lastly, below I will list a few of my favorite lines from some of the various poems throughout the hypercube. I must say, I thought the letters were alluring and tantalizing, they left me wanting to read more write more and to know more! Although I found myself a bit dazed and confused at times, the electric words and the hidden messages, the desperate tone, within each piece of this poetic prose, really spoke to me on a deeper level then I had imagined it to. Well, that’s all I got guys, check out some of my favorite lines and quotes from the hypercube! Let me know if any of these excerpts resonated with you! Ciao, ciao!

Don’t forget to: #ROCKTHEVOTE2020

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“My parents, before they died, bought me English as a graduation present. It’s an outdated version. I hear it has fewer problems than the latest release, but I can’t look up some of the newer words…”

“In decrepit basement rooms, gather daily to train, recite the alphabet, backward and forward in seconds, write in complete darkness, memorize dictionaries.”

“If Dialects starved, would you still cook me dinner?”

“To foster literacy, the government is using helicopters to overfly target sectors, dropping poems warning of the evils of poverty. “Real friends don’t need money,” one optimistic slogan states.”

 Gillespie, W. Letter to Linus. Electronic Literature Collection, 2001. https://collection.eliterature.org/2/works/gillespie_letter_to_linus.html

Reconstructing Mayakovsky

From my previous blogs:

  • From Troupes and Bots: “I noticed the pitch-black background; it made me think of Shariff Ezzat’s Electronic Lit piece, “Like Stars in the Clear Night Sky.” 
  • From Ask Me For The Moon: “There appeared a black screen again.”
  • From Pieces of Herself: “As you click start, there appears a pitch-black background.”
  • From With Those We Love Alive: “Starts with the iconic black background.”

And for today’s piece, I once again discovered our symbolic black background; I might be slightly obsessed with the color palette when it comes to Electronic Literature. Upon entering the work, on the top left, big, white, all caps and bolded was the title of the piece “Reconstructing Mayakovsky.” Right next to the title, it said “a Novel of the Future,” so immediately, I had to search when this piece was written. I’ll be honest; I usually skim through the homepage because I am so excited to explore the actual work. But upon reading the information provided on the homepage, I was intrigued. Illya Szilak wrote this piece in 2008, and her work was inspired by the late poet Vladimir Mayakovsky who committed suicide in 1930. 

Upon returning to the piece, the reader enters a sci-fi-ish place, and is watching space. We see stars, and interestingly enough, instead of planets floating around, which is what one expects when looking at space, there is a bunch of words floating around. There are seven words to be exact; words such as “Movies, Manifesto, Theatre, etc.” Ultimately, the words drive the creation of all the other elements, and the words bind the piece together. As I played with the space recreation, the words kept rotating. It was easy to navigate through the piece through the hyperlinks; the only hard part was deciding where I wanted to wander. I began my journey by clicking on “Movies” first, because I mean, who doesn’t like movies. Oh man, was I wrong! I wouldn’t watch this movie. It was sort of like a pitch to come live in this very dystopian world, called ONEWORLD, where everything is perfect, and we are free of all the bad things, such as natural disasters, terrorists, and diseases. It does sound like the ideal world, but I have read The Giver and watched the movie, so there’s definitely a catch, and I won’t take the chance, so pass…

Next, I ventured off into the realm of Audio Podcasts, and once again, the theme of floating objects continued. This time, it was numbers ranging from 1 to 46. Each number was accompanied by a sound, from glass breaking sounds coming from number 42, the piano playing on number 20, and the movie trailer we watched earlier playing for number 3. As you click each digit, an audio podcast plays, making you realize these numbers are actually chapters of a book. As I continued to explore the piece and tried so earnestly to understand it, I just kept getting tangled. I couldn’t quite catch this novel’s theme, but I recognized each sound correlated with what the chapter was portraying, which was rather impressive.

At this point, I was feeling overwhelmed. I still continued to explore because I wanted so badly to understand the piece as a whole. I decided my next step would be to experiment with Mechanisms B. I’m happy this was the piece I selected next; it went well with the audio podcasts. There were once again numbers (chapters) floating around, but this time with a title. Upon clicking the numbers instead of the podcast, the chapters were in written form. There were 11 sporadic chapters; I wondered why the author chose 11 chapters out of the 46 present. I wanted to read all of them, I wanted a coherent story like we have when. reading a novel, but there was just not enough time, so I will have to come back and explore this piece at my leisure.

I can’t wait for class tomorrow to fully understand this piece, because to say the least, I sadly did not grasp the concept the way I wished I did.