Fore/Afterword to R and L: A Love Story

Note: This description functions as either an afterword and a foreword. You may choose either option. To go to R and L: A Love Story before reading this, click on the icon at the bottom of this page.

R and L: A Love Story is the true story of two lovers told from five different perspectives: True Love, Trouble, Boredom, Romance and Domestic Bliss. The story can be followed in two ways: the reader can either follow one perspective through to the end or read the story from several or all of the different perspectives. Each version of the story is about the same two lovers, but depending upon which version is read, the reader gets a very different perspective on the relationship. Additionally, if the story is read from various different perspectives, the information which the reader gets appears to be contradictory.
This narrative problematizes the place which truth and authenticity occupy in relation to the story. The reader is constantly reminded that it is, indeed, a true story, but the story being presented changes depending on the reader's choices. The story is inherently more convincing if a reader follows one perspective straight through to the end, but in doing so, the reader has to sacrifice the option of getting information from other perspectives. However, if the story is read through from several or all of the perspectives at once, the characters appear to be inconsistent at best, unconvincing and flat at worst. But this is a true story.

Thus, clearly the signified has a hermeneutic value: every action of the meaning is an action of truth: in the classic text (dependent upon an historical ideology), meaning is mingled with truth, signification is the path of truth: if we succeed in denoting the old man, his truth (castration) is immediately revealed. Yet, in the hermeneutic system, the connotative signified occupies a special place: it brings into being an insufficient half truth, powerless to name itself: it is the incompleteness, the insufficiency, the powerlessness of truth, and this partial deficiency has a qualifying value; this birth defect is a coded factor, a herneneutic morpheme, whose function is to thicken the enigma by outlining it: a powerful enigma is a dense one, so that, provided certain precautions are taken, the more signs there are, the more the truth will be obscured, the harder one will try and figure it out. - Roland Barthes, S/Z
Barthes alludes to truth in this passsage, but he is referring to the idea of truth within the structure of the intitial fiction of the story; what happens to the truth when you allude to it as something outside of the confines of the story? R and L: A Love Story carries with it the allusion to all the stories which the reader is not getting, everything which has happened and will happen outside of the parameters of what is defined by true love, domestic bliss, boredom, trouble, and romance. In this work, everything functions as at once, the connotative signified and the real. The real is defined, in this context, as something which the reader believes in, a sort of anchor to the truth which defines the parameters of reality, i.e., the true nature of the relationship. If the reader is willing to acknowledge all of the information given as true, notions of a single univocal truth must be discarded. And yet, this is a true story.

This (therefore) will not have been a book. Still less, despite appearances, will it have been a collection of three "essays" whose itinerary it would be time, after the fact, to recognize; whose continuity and underlying laws could now be pointed out; indeed, whose overall concept or meaning could at last, with all the insistence required on such occasions, be squarely set forth.-Jaques Derrida, Disseminations
It is exactly my duty, at this time, to point out the continuity and underlying laws of my text, to squarely set forth the overall concept and meaning of this work. Nonetheless, I will assert: This (therefore) will not have been a story. Still less, despite appearances, will it have been a true story whose truth it would be time, after the fact, to recognize, whose claims to authenticity could now be analysed and understood, indeed, whose overall concept or meaning could at last, with all the insistence required on such occasions, be squarely set forth.

The text is remarkable in that the reader (here in exemplary fashion) can never choose his own place in it, nor can the spectator. There is at any rate no tenable place for him opposite the text, outside the text, no spot where he might get away with not writing what, in the reading, would seem to him to be given, past; no spot, in other words, where he would stand before an already written text. Because his job is to put things on the stage, he is on stage himself, he puts himself on stage . -Derrida, Dissemination
The reader, writer and the text can no longer exist as separate entities, instead, an intermingling of the three is achieved whereby the reader at once writes, reads and is the text. The text reflects back upon the reader in such a way that the reader must confront his/her idea of reality. Is it one of the rather mundane relationships which results from a combinatorial reading of the various perspectives at once, one of the five relationships resulting from following one perpective straight through, or something outside of either of these options, emcompassing all of these relationships as well as others? Or is it possible that it is none of these three options, but rather that none of the stories proposed are true? How much of the story is the reader writing, and how much has already been written? To what extent is the story writing itself?

When identical semes traverse the same proper name several times and appear to settle on it, a character is created. Thus, the character is a product of combinations: the combination is relatively stable (denoted by the recuurence of the semes) and more or less complex (involving more or less congruent, more or less contradictory figures); this complexity determines the character's "personality", which is just as much a combination as the odor of a dish or the bouquet of a wine. -Barthes, S/Z
If the characters in R and L: A Love Story seem immature or banal lovers, it is because R and L are boring and immature people. Or are they? Perhaps, given additional information or a different perspective, they would seem dynamic and interesting, partners in the great love to end all loves. Or perhaps, no such love exists. R and L: A Love Story functions in the gaps between meaning and truth, the need or desire to create a coherent reality, made up of different stories, peopled by various characters motivated by specific desires and needs.

Notes on the design of R and L: A Love Story

R and L: A Love Story was constucted to give the impression of truthfulness and to deal specifically with the viewer/reader's relationship with the printed word. Thus all the text was black on a white background and no graphics or sound were used. All of the text blocks were constucted to fit on one page without any scrolling, except, in certain cases, to get to the "Next" link in the html version. Typos and other syntax errors were not eliminated from the text in order to make the text more authentic or journalistic, and to continue to remind the reader that despite the apparent objectivity of the voice of the narrator, there was still a subjective source for all of the information.

R and L:  A Love Story