September 16, 2008

Riddles for a Naked Sailor in 1K

by Nick Montfort · , 6:07 am

Riddles for a Naked SailorRiddles for a Naked Sailor
Mary Azrael
Pictures by Howard Kaye
Stonevale Press
1991

“My name is small / in any tongue” offers riddle fifteen, which might also indicate the slight regard in which riddles are held. In the United States, they are particularly dismissed. Most think of riddles as no more than knock-knock jokes for children. The great American riddlemaster, Emily Dickinson, knew better. She used the form to question nature and art, to open the mind to new perceptions. While many poets drop a headless metaphor now and then into their writing, few books of literary riddles are written. (Two by May Swenson are exceptions, but even those were published as children’s books.) This collection of twenty-four riddles is pleasing, cosmological in its reach, and well-illustrated. An image of the answer is usually a crime, but the ink blots here are visual riddles themselves. The digital media connection? It’s to systems that asked to be solved, such as adventure games and particularly interactive fiction, which, like the riddle, has a surface all of text – with golden treasure hidden inside.