Why don’t you read the way I write?

“Why don’t you write the way you talk?
Why don’t you read the way I write?”

These two sentences were written at the «begin»-page of Soliloquy and were something I kept in mind as I read my way through it. The sentences give depth to the piece, and adds another dimension on how to read it.

“Soliloquy” is written by Kenneth Goldsmith. It is a piece of electronic literature that gives the reader either a question or a sentence for each page and as one moves the pointer somewhere on the page, a response is shown – which changes depending on which part of the site one points to.

Discover “Soliloquy” yourself

At first I tried reading all the possible responses in the order they were written – “why don’t you read the way I write?” But I soon realized that things would not make much more sense that way. “You don’t write the way you talk.”

Apparently the sentences at the «begin»-page not only are poetic or a hint towards how to read this piece of e-lit – but it is actually a way of human interpretation. I think most of us would not write exactly the same sentences if they were to be spoken out loud instead. And what we write can be interpreted in so many more different ways than what we intend them to be. This reminds me of when in class, we were told to think about what we write in our blog posts – because they are public and we never know who will read them (or how they will be interpreted).

“Soliloquy” gives the reader seven options, one for each day of the week. Each day of the week has several pages, each with a different opening and different bunch of replies. I think they are in chronological order, but the order in which they are read does not matter that much. I have seen the mention of the names John, David, Suzanne, Margo, Xenakis, Chavez, Bruce, Blair, Marjorie, Phillipa and Cheryl Donegan (another character’s wife, I think their spouse is called Munsy) but could not understand so much who they were. I have a feeling though that maybe we are reading the story from Munsy’s point of view? Partly because their wife, Cheryl, is the most mentioned person in the story from what I’ve read.

I found many nice quotes throughout the work. Here are some examples:
“So tell me” – “Well, I don’t know” (This happens a lot, right?)
“Hi.” – “You just bad mouthed me” (I thought this one was a bit funny)
“Hey, I can sit behind my computer and be real anti-social” – “Yeah”
“Nobody listens everybody talks at once” – “Mine nobody listens, nobody talks”

I liked this piece of electronic literature because it gives the reader the chance to interpret everything on its own, the work is just there and the way one reads it – and the path one chooses – is completely open. On the other side, this openness does bring a bit confusion as to what the meaning of the work is. I am given many conversations where each gives me information about something, which makes it difficult to find the story behind it all. It is like a jigsaw puzzle consisting of thousands of pieces where some pieces are missing, others don’t fit and some you might even have duplicates of.

I do wonder in which way it is supposed to be read – am I supposed to read all the replies in order and let them form a conversation? Or pick one of them? I found out that either way, a lot of it would not make sense. The replies make sense for a while, as if being a conversation between two people, but suddenly it will not make sense anymore. I think maybe each page contains several conversations? Perhaps even conversations between different people? I’m not sure, but that would be my best guess if I am to make sense of every single reply. My other guess is that by looking at what soliloquy means, that the work is a monologue and made up of a person’s thoughts – but honestly I can’t quite get that to make sense, either.

In the end, I allowed myself to read the description of “Soliloquy” – which I had not done beforehand in order to allow myself to interpret the work freely and without any knowledge about it. Apparently, this piece of e-lit consists of everything the author said for a whole week in April 1996. I cannot say though, that “Soliloquy” makes more sense to me now. To me it still is bits of pieces of conversations that give small pieces of information about people and their lives – which I guess is true either way.

Way earlier in this blog post, I wrote that “I think most of us would not write exactly the same sentences if they were to be spoken out loud instead.” And I guess this becomes even more relevant now that we know this work is transcribed from a recording consisting of everything a man said for a week. It also is a reason why the pages were difficult to understand, because they were meant to be spoken words heard by our ears, and not words in a literary piece to be read by our eyes.

I think my strategy for reading e-lit in the future will be the same as it was this time. I will continue to interpret the work of e-lit first, and then read about it later. That way I will be more open-minded when discovering the works. I think it will be an interesting journey.

And through these blog posts I am already starting to realise how much of myself shines through the analyse, and how they teach me to know myself better. When we were told in class that we would get to know ourselves better through this subject, yet I never thought it would be as literally as it seems right now.
(Hmm, is a poetic sign-off my way of ending blog posts? We’ll see.)

See you soon!
And thank you for reading.

 


Back again!

This is the first blogpost in a while, i have been off from school, and I kind of dint think I would be using this blog for a while. But now I am taking a class in Electronic literature and we are going to blog about the works we are looking at for class, so here goes!

Soliloquy

Soliloquy is a work by Kenneth Goldsmith, where he recorded every work he said for a whole ween, in 1996. The work itself is presented in the days Monday through Sunday, then split into 10 parts, probably to make it more manageable. The chunks of text or lexias, are hidden unless you hover over them with your cursor, all except the first lexia on each page. The lexias can be just one word, or up to about two sentences.

There is an exception, on page 2 on Monday the line “This is really cool.” Is shown in addition to the first line. After checking the code, I found that it is a code error, and most probably not intended to be shown. If it was intentional it would probably not have been done by code error, but intentional in the code.blog1Soliloquy2.png

Back to Soliloquy

Now in the electronic literature class we have been talking about how we read electronic literature, what strategies we use. The first time saw that the text appeared when I hovered over it with the cursor I immediately tried to select all (CTRL=A), it worked and I could read all the text on that page, I read almost a full page like this. Then I thought that this was a terrible way to read the work, first, if that was the intended way to read it, why hide all the text? And secondly it was way too much text, there is seven days with ten pages each. Thirdly, when all the text was visible, the individual lexias all became jumbled into one big one.

So, I decided to not select all, instead just to mark random lexias, and see if any of them took my interest, and the work became much more enjoyable.

That’s how I read, now for what I read.

The work, as I stated above. It’s a record off all the things Kenneth Goldsmith said for a whole week. In my random look at the days I found a bit about porn that I thought was funny, also he mentioned using Internet explorer, and explaining how to search to someone. That was funny to me, but in general I found the work to be much more enjoyable when I was just randomly looking through it, and not reading everything.

blog1Soliloquy

I spent some time just trying to find a theme, first I was looking for a theme for the whole thing, then I looked for themes for the days, but I ended up thinking that there is no “theme”, in the sense that there is no real purpose to the work, no end goal, but that’s not a bad thing is it?

It seems to me that randomly looking at things a person says during a week is much like meeting that person, unless you spend every waking moment with that person you can’t know all the things they say, you will only hear somethings, and if you’re lucky, you’ll hear the interesting things.

That is what I came out of this piece thinking, all in all, it was quite enjoyable to look at.


Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky…

So, for my first blog post for this class, we got to choose between three different Elit works;  –Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky, –Soliloquy, and –RedRidinghood. Me being both fairly new to the world of Electronic Literature and almost blind, I went for the first one. Like many of the elite texts I’ve come across so far you kind of go into it with both many and few expectations of what to find, annualize quickly wether or not they were met. This particular piece opens with a voice talking in a foreign language (no idea what), the voice is accompanied with a black background that slowly turns into a night sky filled with stars, and of course subtitles to translate what the voice is saying. Due to my vision loss I weren’t able to pick up everything he was saying, though I assume, after exploring te piece, he was talking about telling stories that concerned him about people and such that have had meaning for his own life.

After the voice had stopped speaking, and I were left to myself with the night sky full of stars, I started moving my cursor around, and just as I had expected, some of the stars showed me prompts to tell a story of his (the man with the voice). So by clicking on one of the stars I got access to the first story. The first story I got was about his sister and how she had met a man and they had fallen in love. But the story also revealed a backside to the happiness, both the disapproval of her parents, and the difference in their expectations of life.

After reading the first story, with was “written in the stars” in plain white text, I started at once “expecting” what would come next. Would it be a continuance of this story? A side story? Another perspective? So I moved on to another star and clicked it.

During the second story, my mind kind of wanted this story to be related to the first one I read, making me think for a second that this was the story of the man that had met the sister, but after reading on I realize this story didn’t relate at all, at least mot in the way my mind wanted it to. So I sort of “turned off my mind”, and pursued the rest of the stories, one by one, seeing if the I would grasp some kind of relationship between them.

But after reading all of them (I THINK I got them all) I sort of felt a connection between them, even though these were totally independent stories with no apparent relationships at all. The only thing they all had in common was exactly that, they were totally individual.

The feeling I’m left with after exploring this piece is that of when you stare into the night sky, wondering how people’s lives, or other events plays out on the other side of the world. The randomness of how you pick the star, or even the serene, almost primitive music in the background accompanied with birds tweeting about, actually did a good job of project that feeling in me. Almost as if I were in God’s position peeking into people’s lives. Just to observe…

I have no idea if this were the author’s intention, but I’m fairly sure I’m at least on to something here.

 

So until next time folks, Dannyboy is out 🙂


I. RedRidinghood

RedRidinghood by Donna Leish seemed like a good choice for my first analysis of electronic literature. This is mainly due to one reason: had I encountered this piece in another context, I would probably have regarded it as anything but “literature”.

This modern retelling of the popular fairy tale leads the reader through a video-game-like adventure that offers different ways for the story to unfold. What surprised me was that it felt more like an interactive video than a text. The visuals are reminiscent of comic books and the whole story is set to a variety of upbeat songs – however, the feeling the story leaves you with is anything but “jazzy”. RedRidinghood is a story of violence, about being devoured by your own mind and about passivity and helplessness. The motifs of the well-known fairy tale are cleverly used here: the hood becomes a hoodie, the mother is a vamp-like figure with doubtful intentions and the wolf becomes a very human predator.

Now, this is by no means a new approach to the story. Even in one of the most well-known versions of the tale from the 17th century, Charles Perrault writes “[…] there are real wolves, with hairy pelts and enormous teeth; but also wolves who seem perfectly charming, sweet-natured and obliging, who pursue young girls in the street and pay them the most flattering attentions. Unfortunately, these smooth-tongued, smooth-pelted wolves are the most dangerous beasts of all.” (Carter, Angela, ed. Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Other Classic Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault. New York: Penguin Books, 2008 p. 3)

So, the interpretation of the characters is not the most suprising element of the story. What makes this piece unique, though, is how it conveys the feelings of the protagonist to the reader. In older fairy-tale versions, the characters are flat and just serve to illustrate the obvious moral of the story. In this case, however, we can easily identify with the protagonist and her unfortunate situation. Like Little Red Riding Hood, we are stuck between a variety of choices that all seem unappealing, and like her, we feel lost, trapped and hopeless. This is most obvious at the end of the story. When the protagonist sits on her rapist’s bed and has a gun to her head, we can not do anything to change her fate either and like her, we just have to await the end of her story. This aspect could be seen as a feminist comment on fairy tales and the passivity of the female characters we usually encounter there.

The part of the story that impressed me the most was the diary. I stumbled upon it by accident, clicking random parts of the picture. However, even though it is not the most obvious part of the text, I would think it is almost the most important one. Here, we encounter the deepest and darkest thoughts of the girl and can follow her on her journey – she falls in love with the man who then turns out to be her worst fear. This is depicted in several poems and drawings that go from upbeat to simply disturbing. The “I” and the “You” are not always clear, the voice of predator, victim and reader are shifting, as can be seen here.

I was amazed at how much the form of the text corresponds with the content. The story literally works on many levels, simultaneously playing in different tabs. The dreams, the diary and the main story work like an assembled collage, the motif of an abusive relationship working like a thread through the text. Using a well-known fairy tale as a base for this experimental form seems like a good choice – the reader already has expectations towards the story and is surprised even more once the tale shows its true and admittedly quite dark nature. This text was a good introduction to more image-based texts, showing how words, images and animation can work together to create a multidimensional story.

 


Thinking about reading…. (with “12 Blue” by Michael Joyce)


“12 BLUE ISN’T ANYTHING, THINK OF LILACS WHEN THEY ARE GONE.”
everything can be read, every surface, every silence, every breath, every vacancy, every eddy, every current, every body, every absence, every darkness, every light……

Some ideas to consider from our discussion last Wednesday:

Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue = a reading experience; a conceptual exploration.

  • Themes/Motifs: reading & flowing; water- upstream/downstream, stillness & turbulence, being submerged, fluid and changing; memory; color; nature/seasons; traces; generations (young vs. more mature); history; perception (looking); multiple paths/multiple meanings; “skyways” (routes, infrastructure, mobility); self-referencial elements
  • Character, plot and relationships: there are relationship “networks” but there was definitely some confusion – some readers knew some characters, other readers knew others, some of our knowledge of the text overlapped, some did not, etc.
  • Reading strategies:   Some click on threads or the hyperlinks within the text randomly, some readers decide to stick consistently by a certain thread color, while others might discover the titles for each of the lexia tabs and use this as an attempt to “frame” possible meanings.  Some readers think about the number 12 as a clue to a reading strategy, while some attempt  basic “note taking” and/or “mapping” in an attempt to discern patterns or meanings.
  • Many of us expressed frustration, and many felt a sense of exploration and discovery emerge after some more time spent with the text.  Some of us expressed that the piece was “writerly” but the story was never compelling because there was no cohesion.  We speculated on the effect of a lack of any discernible pathway to reading.   A lack of any identifiable closure was certainly unsettling to most of us.
  • Assessment: 12 Blue reminds us all of the active role of the reader in creation – we are “navigators” beyond just readers;   We all shared an awareness of an underlying structure that cannot/couldn’t be apprehended, but was determined by the code of the work. (This is the central illusion – that readers have agency through navigation, but still, the world is a closed design determined by the underlying code).  I think the idea of an illusion will be a key word for us to consider throughout our exploration of elit.  With Twelve Blue, we struggled to apprehend an ending (lack of closure was deemed truly unsatisfying), but some of us agreed there was beauty in the fragments.

I would like to share with you some critical/review articles. These articles give you an idea of how critics/scholars write about a text like 12 Blue:

Some follow up planning issues:

Most of you have selected a date for your presentation.   On Monday we will continue to identify the elit text you would like analyze (please have a few choices in mind, and I encourage you to select work from Vols 2 or 3).  The first presentation for your E-lit Reviews will start next week – thanks to Fredrik volunteering to kick this part of class off on Wednesday.

For next week:

 1. For those of you have not identified an Elit piece to analyze, continue exploring the ELC Volumes and choose a few you would like to work with.  Keep a few preferred presentation dates in mind and be ready to negotiate that date with the rest of your classmates in class next week.

2.  Please read these three elit works from Volume 1:

Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky by Sharif Ezzat

Soliloquy by Kenneth Goldsmith

RedRidinghood by Donna Leishman

3.  Your first blog post:  Write analytically about one of those three texts:  –Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky, –Soliloquy, or –RedRidinghood.  Some questions to consider:  What are some of the significant textual elements?  How did you choose to navigate these texts?  What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  What overall effect do these texts create?  What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text? What is literary about the text?

Next week we will walkthrough the three texts, as a model for what your reviews may be like.  In addition, we will go over the Elit Review protocol/assignment.

Thanks for a great start to the semester….

God Helg,

Dr. Zamora