Literally, getting into a good book

“There was a faint, barely perceptible movement of the water as the fresh flow from one end urged its way toward the drain at the other. With little ripples that were hardly the shadows of waves, the laden mattress moved irregularly down the pool. A small gust of wind that scarcely corrugated the surface was enough to disturb its accidental course with its accidental burden. The touch of a cluster of leaves revolved it slowly, tracing, like the leg of compass, a thin red circle in the water.

The shade of red matched the cherry in the empty cocktail glass Gatsby clutched at his side. The smoke from his cigar drifted over the lifeless body of George Wilson in the pool before him. With a hawk and a spit, Gatsby threw his glass into the pool, adjusted his Ray Bans and in a single, fury filled, shake reloaded his pump action shotgun.

He turned his head to the heavens and with a rasping scream howled out his trademark phrase,

“Yippee-ki-yay Wilson, nobody messes with the Gat !”

Ok, so you may have spotted where I tinkered with the ending a little, but in my head, it seems to work a little better. Of course, some of you classicists may choose to disagree, but this is perhaps a sign of my superior 21 Century reading skills and a forlorn epitaph to your slowly dying habit…

I am exaggerating a little. Well, a lot really. I have gradually become accustomed to reading with my kindle instead of with a book and, although it doesn’t feel the same, the experience is slowly losing some of its strangeness and the school library is getting fat on the books I am donating. I agree with the idea that humans want something tangible in their hands; something that doesn’t need charging cleaning, wont be useless if it falls in the bath and, through the years, develops a battered, stained and loved character and personality of its own. However, in the cold light of our brave new world, space, cost, and environment are gathering like bills at the end of the month and practical needs to “go digital” are mounting. Why then am i changing the ending of Gatsby ?

I guess in the same way that there is a difference between having technology as add-on part of teaching and integrating technology fully into teaching, reading can be seen as using technology as a platform or as an active process, with the reader fully integrating themselves into the creative process. I am a fan of the former; of reading the text using the technological platform. However, thanks to a well-informed friend, the tattooed surf genius (TSG), I have started to explore interactive novels, where you can “become” the character, make choices and affect the narrative. I have to admit that i am enjoying it, but i am not sure if I am an unwitting convert to computer gamery or if this is still “reading”…

TSG has been raving about 253 ryman-novel .com an almost cinematic bit of writing where the reader flits from passenger to passenger whilst they journey on an underground train. It is a great example of character building and looking at motivation and context. It is also a great lesson-in-waiting for a grade 9 creative writing class. I have managed to sit through meetings and entire conversations whilst wandering around the underground carriages and exploring alternative endings for the characters I have been inhabiting, but I am not sure to what extent this is “reading” or gaming with a more sophisticated context.

I think that I am still too set in being a passive reader – involved in the text, but quite happy to be pushed and pulled around by the writer. The interactive writing TSG has been pushing my way involves me being a bit more active and less omniscient….and quite frankly, it is a bit exhausting . After the interactive novels, I am finding that I need a bit of a brain rest and some reading to relax…

Here are some really interesting resources to explore with students relating to interactive novels. I have also included a couple of academic papers which look at the differences and similarities between interactive novels and computer games.

Academic papers