Books without Pages – Readers without Futility

The reading extract from Douglas, J. Yellowlees’ The End of Books — Or Books Without End? has geared and prompted responses, I assume, from many students on their own conception of the book, its significance, its future, and the spectre of technology over it’s prospective redundancy.

Yellowlees’ exposition on interactive narratives is one I found quite captivating and a discourse I hadn’t before come across. While intrigued, I found that in it’s reading the article made me more aware of what I love about the traditional book, and where the interactive narrative falls manifestly short in these qualities.

Yellowlees writes:

“Because readers of interactive narratives can enjoy this newfound liberty to make choices and decide what deserves to become an “end- ing” to the stories they read, they also discover something that approximates Archimedes’ fulcrum and level place to stand: a relative freedom that enables them to determine the satisfactions that closure is made of. Before this, closure was something we could describe and codify, but it was not something that we could examine outside of its role as a given.”

A critical piece of this interactive narrative epistemology is the notion of “satisfaction” determination and the operation of closure. What is closure in literature? I don’t know – but I would postulate that it is nothing, if not an acute and poignant mechanism an author possesses to mediate, convey meaning, incite a desired response or provoke thought.

The unique futility of the reading experience for me is the seductive and irresistible quality to the traditional narrative. The solidarity experienced when reading a narrative that is utterly intelligible, comprehensible and engrossing is only heightened by a lack of control, and a surrender of agency to a fictional world.

In this sense, being carried through fiction blindfolded with no agency and zero control over the plot and it’s contingencies is a sensational thing. Our will is tested in a way that it is not in our own lives. But we have the agency to put it down, but if it is good enough, isn’t it fantastic that we do not?

Seemingly, it is this voidance of agency and consumption in author determination and decision-making that makes the traditional narrative, from a personal perspective, a worthwhile thing to do. The futility and vulnerability of the reader are the prime catalysts in the experience of any meaningful reaction, emotion, indignity, pathos, salvation or any varying degree of closure that any individual may or may not feel. And it is this arrangement that allows the traditional narrative to edify our lives and our perspectives of the world in a totally different way to how the interactive narrative would.

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