afternoon: a series of random words on white backgroundPosted: October 5, 2011
After reading the Salon article on the death of hypertext as a literary form, I re-read afternoon. Now, I can’t speak for every hypertext piece ever written, having never read any other hypertext work (or heard of it before last week), but I realized what has been bothering me about the format: there’s no connection to the characters. There’s not much of a connection to anything within the text; it’s all so unbearably random. If, as we spoke about in class Tuesday, the individual pieces are read as poetry, I think the combination may work a bit better. However, there are actual characters; “I”s and “we”s and proper nouns, and the title of the hypertext is afternoon: a story, not afternoon: a series of random words on white background. Trying to figure out who’s speaking when and to whom, about what etc. etc. gives me a terrible headache. Joyce himself claims, “…the story exists as several levels…. These are not versions, but the story itself in long lines. Otherwise, however, the center is all…the real interaction, if that is possible, is in pursuit of texture. There we match minds.” Never mind that I find this hilariously pretentious; the point here is that there is supposed to be a point. The reader is supposed to be able to get something from this work. I’ve started the story three separate times, and while it is interesting that the reader is never presented the same story twice—or, really, the same general feeling of a story, because a series of interlocking pages does not a story make—I really feel that the main appeal of the hypertext is a gimmick. Like LaFarge said, “It’s interesting in a… if-it’s-boring-for-two-hours-do-it-for-four kind of way, but the appeal of endless clicking was perhaps greater in 1988 than it is now, when we click plenty at the office, thank you”. I really appreciate the sarcasm of this quote, because it’s the same tone I find myself using when I think of this work. I’m probably being far too hard on afternoon, but I find the entire experience remarkably frustrating. I can appreciate the writing on individual pieces—some of it is quite lovely—but I think that when the pieces combine to a whole, the whole fails to be a complete, successful work.