patchwork girl: story

Some responses from my most recent reading of Patchwork Girl.

Spending time in the “Story” section of the narrative. And that word points to the problem: this doesn’t read like a narrative; we don’t get a story to follow. Instead, we get the writing of a story (back to process, to the foregrounding of writing). And right away in this section, if we choose to see it, we get something of the wreading of a story. For example, notice the number of links from the space “birth.” Does it matter which path we take?

It does matter if the reader wants to stay within the section. Some links take me to spaces outside, such as “graveyard.” Others stay within. In other words, the links move away from what Birkerts calls “narrative thrust” and thrust us toward some sort of database: pieces that are here, but also elsewhere (where every elesewhere is also here, in computational space, as Hayles reminds us). A database of spaces that then require the reader to make some sense. Though not completely a database logic, since the links are provided by the author. We are just leave more to ourselves than we might like.

Does this sound familiar? Notice what we hear when we get to “plea” [here I return to the Story section/web, but this time aim to stay within it, and do this in using the storymap view to go space by space. The creature talking to Victor about his desire for him to create a being: so that he may become “linked to the chain of existence and events from which I am now excluded” and live in “communion” rather than in solitude. The creature has no story of his own (or in Jackson’s version, her own); communion comes only through communication (Birkerts, recall, opposes these two terms), through the workings of the database, the quilt. A story can be made; it won’t be found.

In “filthy work,” we hear again Shelley’s text echoed in Jackson’s creation; and in doing so, in linking the process of Victor into the process of this text–its hideousness–I think Shelley Jackson offers insight into the original novel: that Mary Shelley’s process of creation is also part of the story; hers, too, is a database struggling through the work of her hands toward a narrative.

“she”: the female monster speaks in a parenthetical, and illuminates the material metaphor of ‘linked to existence,” and extends the idea of the recombination at work (resemble, reassemble) to the word ‘web.’ By the way, a note on duration and slow reading. I agree with SB that these are important for critical reading and writing. I disagree, from my own experience, that such is excluded by reading in a networked environment. This section tonight is a small example. I am slowing down with this text: in part, because I have smaller spaces to work with; in part because of the lateral associations (a pejorative used by Birkerts) that Jackson makes with her words. In a word, the links move me sideways (if not thrust me forward); but the sideways move slows me down. Moving sideways, in this sense of association, can also–dare I say can better–cultivate understanding.

Isn’t this what Emerson means: all thinking is analogizing and it is the use of life to learn metonymy? Or try Jackson, from “Language, Voices”: “Everything I’m made of speaks up from the dead.” Think of the attention this gives to the langauge we read in this text; the language is the story.

A link to Jackson’s hypertext narrative (what seems to be more autobiographical) titled “The Body”

A link to Jackson’s website, Ineradicable Stain

An article on Web 2.0 storytelling; Patchwork Girl is more 1.0 (as an original hypertext, not built for the web); but it contains components that are key to what these authors call web 2.0: microcontent (chunks of information) and social collaboration. In both cases, one could argue that such storytelling resists traditional definitions of narrative. One might also argue that it takes narrative back to its oral roots.


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