“Reader beware… you choose the scare”

Joyce’s Afternoon, a story is another example of a stream of consciousness writing. However, it combines this traditional literature style with electronic literature. The use of hypertext fiction allows readers to use hypertext links to choose how their story progresses. This type of interactive fiction creates a unique, non-linear journey for each reader. As Joyce says in the introduction, “These are not versions, but the story itself in long lines. Otherwise, however, the center is all…the real interaction… is in pursuit of texture.”

What strikes me about reading this story is the unique experience we each have as we read. I asked two other classmates how their reading was going, and they both responded with two very different versions of Afternoon. My story jumped right into characters getting high and watching scenes in a movie and then the snow and landscape in the winter. It took me a solid hour of exploring to discover the founding plot of the story; midway between loop patterns I found myself on a new tangent of Peter saying he witnessed a car crash and believes his ex-wife and son might have been involved. It is just so strange to me that three scholars could read a piece of literature for 90 minutes, and gain three distinct stories.

One thing continues to irk me about this hypertext fiction: what if I miss something? I continue to alternate between trying different word links, selecting yes, and entering for words in the search box to ensure I cover a wide variety of chapters. What if I’m missing a huge piece of the story based on my reading selections? This stresses me out. A lot. However, as I continue to read I appreciate Joyce’s line: “There is no mystery, really, about the truth. You merely need to backtrack, or take other paths.” I also worry about how I can find “the end”. This concept of non-linear literature is disconcerting. Traditionally you have a set number of pages handed to you, and we read until we finish the pages in chronological order. Although, I very much enjoyed reading the series of branching plots in Give Yourself Goosebumps. Rather than reading the book in contiguous events, readers can choose their own fate in the story. Appropriately so, Goosebumps uses the tagline, “Reader beware… you choose the scare”.

I believe to fully enjoy Afternoon, readers must release their desire to compartmentalize literature into linear events. I know I must branch out of my comfort zone for this reading, and just read to appreciate the journey.  I really liked Joyce’s line: “Closure is, as in any fiction, a suspect quality, although here it is made manifest. When the story no longer progresses, or when it cycles, or when you tire of the paths, the experience of reading it ends.”