October 8, 2003

Mak ing  Sce n e  s

by Andrew Stern · , 11:15 am

I just moved to Boston, and a few days ago happened to walk by Brookline Booksmith, noticing a sign that said Adrienne Eisen will be reading from her new book, called Making Scenes. I thought, huh, Adrienne Eisen, the hypertext writer, has a print book?

I’ve been a fan of Adrienne’s work since her first web-based hyperfiction, Six Sex Scenes, came out about 7 years ago now. We’d had some email discussions in the past — she’s a Petz fan — but we hadn’t met in person, so that was fun.

I’ve always liked the simple but inviting and intriguing way she structures her hypertexts. Perhaps some find her link structures too straightforward, I don’t know, but I find it just complex enough to keep me interested, without making me feel lost or forced to think too hard about where I am in some complex network. As hypertext goes, her work is very readable. Also I very much like the writing and content of her stories, reminding me of one my favorite authors, Mary Gaitskill (I wonder if she gets that comparison a lot).

At the reading I asked her, why a print book? Her answer was basically, why not? The book is a sort of experiment of going from hypertext to linear. She said it was difficult, like how it was difficult for her in grad school to be forced to write linearly when she wanted to write hypertext. She really likes how hypertext allows the reader to access pages in the way we tend to remember things — often in no particular set sequence.

From what I can tell, the material for the book is mostly repurposed from her hypertexts, with some new material as well. Actually it kind of looks like a sample path through her hypertexts — one particular way a reader could have experienced the text in its original form. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose.

One Response to “Mak ing  Sce n e  s”

  1. nick Says:

    I just read Making Scenes. It’s sort of like The Stranger with a female Jewish volleyball player as the main character and narrator. It certainly is funnier than Camus, but the absence of emotion seems almost complete (sample paragraph: “I befriend her.”), which may make it easier to read the texts in different ways with similar effect.

    I wonder about the idea of a book as a “sample path” through a hypertext. Does that make the book a demo for the hypertext? As Scott may know from my comments about the Unknown excerpts in his thesis, I don’t see the repurposing thing as always working well. I can’t locate why exactly it is – the different context? the difference between the codex machine and the CRT or flat panel? the actual formal differences in where I am invited to flip to? my different postures when reading? – but I feel like the fiction I’ve read in both forms hasn’t ever worked both as (computer) hypertext and in print. Perhaps Douglas Cooper’s Delirium, which was serial and not particularly compex in its hypertextual when published on Pathfinder, if I remember correctly, worked the best in both of these incarnations.

    I would say that Stephanie Strickland has done some of the best “repurposing” jobs with “The Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot” and in her re-use of lines in her recent book and on V: Vniverse, done with Cynthia Lawson. Perhaps poetry is more apt to be expressed in print and online – neither of these being native forms for the poem, which finds its true medium in the human voice. Or perhaps I’m just waxing poetical.

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