Experience Great Divide.
Great Divide began (and, perhaps, ended) as an experiment. An online, interactive, multi-media novel is not what I—an antiquarian and a sucker for loose-spined, yellow-paged old tomes—expected from myself. However, I’d spent the previous few years getting a sense of myself as a novelist and thinking more than is recommended about questions of form. “What makes a novel a novel?” became one of those spiraling, zen-koan questions for me, with all the obvious answers seeming inadequate and the adequate answers proving brittle, intractable, or simply absent. I wanted to know (maybe a little perversely) the limits of the form I was so invested in; I wanted to know how much pushing, of what kind, would make it break. Of course, I didn’t want it to actually break: I wanted to write a successful novel that almost wasn’t one, that verged on being something else, or even on being nothing much at all.
The internet seemed a natural-enough ground for this kind of exploration: it provided endless opportunities for interactivity, plasticity, and overall formal messing-around, but didn’t make a lot of room for the deep, sustained reading that novels require. The world of internet-based literature seems to tilt heavily towards poetry, which tends to asks for short bursts of intense attention rather than the mulling, interrupted attention we give to longer works. The internet does not provide an entirely comfortable fit for a novel, but a comfortable fit was never the goal; we cannot read this novel as we usually read novels and we cannot read this bit of http:// in the ways we are accustomed to reading online. It is, I believe, in the struggles and compromises we make between these modes that something new is possible.
I am not yet able to declare the results of this experiment; I do not know if this is a novel, an almost-novel, a broken novel, or something as yet unnamed. I am not precisely sure which I would prefer. Writing this piece was not so different from writing any other: I grew attached to my characters, inhabited their landscapes and their interiors, worked hard to make the threads of their lives weave into something whole. Still, this piece seems to have a life beyond me, in a way that others do not. Much of the composition of Great Divide, much is what the piece is, is left up to the reader, to the choices they make of how to read. This will not be the same book to everyone, which is the point, and the trouble of it.
Photo Source: Procrastinate the Procrastination
© 2011 Emily Kiernan. All rights reserved.