Talking to yourself at night

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Soliloquy is spooky. Its like a voice in your head. This a result no doubt of the conversational tone taken throughout, as well as the ephemeral quality of the disappearing text. That the words disappeared as soon as the reader moves the mouse away from them mimic to an impressive degree the transient nature of verbal communication. Just as our words are gone from the aural channel as soon as they are spoken and we move on to the next sentence, so does Goldsmith’s text disappear once the reader is done with it. That Soliloquy is a transcription of a recording of the writer’s spoken words over a period of time is especially poignant and gives meaning to a piece that might otherwise be overly alienating and perceived as “art for art’s sake” or at worst, very poor web design.

Speaking of web design, I’m not entirely sure if this was an intended function or not, but I was a little thrown by my ability to keep certain phrases on the screen. The introduction to the piece said my web browser was not the preferred method of viewing it, so I don’t know if that had an impact or not, but by clicking and dragging I found that some pieces of text stayed on the page, until I moused over them and they disappeared again. If there is an artistic reason for this, it would be my assessment that it is meant to represent those few words we say to one another that really resonate, and that we remember even when we’ve forgotten the context and the reason for them. And like the text’s disappearance from the page when the reader mouses over again, these bunches of words slip away when we think about them too hard.

Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky is the first piece of E-Lit that we’ve worked on that is all the way aesthetically pleasing. It is pleasant as a sensory experience- whole and inclusive, but not jarring and alienating like some of the other things we’ve worked on. The sound, from the reading (in a language that based on the author’s name I might guess is Arabic but could be Farsi or any one of the dozens of languages that I know nothing about) at the beginning to the music of the chimes throughout coupled with the still image of the stars that the user can interact with at their leisure makes for a truly soothing experience. Although you have to find the exactly right star to click on to read the story, it lacks completely the frustration of clicking around on an uncooperative page, which was my experience with a lot of other pieces. Not to mention the stories or poems the user finds within the stars are actually moving and beautiful. Maybe its the backdrop of the cosmos or the soothing ring of the chimes but I felt this was the most resonant and evocative writing we’ve seen thus far.

I hope this isn’t an inappropriate or reductive comment, but the whole piece, I’m sure due largely to the narration, took on the feel of 1001 Arabian nights. Certainly the storytelling style, with its repetition, archaic forms and elegant and quasi-mythological language aid in this effect, but the narration has an impact also.

The first day of class we were taking notes in google.docs and somebody, I’m sure rhetorically, wrote something like “why do we read literature?” I couldn’t help but respond, “why do we tell stories about what we see in the stars?” To me, its what we do. Its part of who we are, and if history is any indication, who we’ve always been. Not as one people or nation or another, but as a creature, a species. Our need for stories, for each other’s stories, is almost biological. I’m sure research can be or has been done to support this idea, though I don’t know of any. Its just something we feel. And I think the author of “Like Stars…” would tend to agree with me, as he has strung his tales amongst the stars, and asked the reader to draw his or her own significance from their placement, which is different with every iteration of the piece.

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