To be truthful, I thought I was getting used to the multi-linearity or multi-sequentiality of hypertext quite well by now, but to say that I experienced disorientation when I read Afternoon would almost like an understatement to me. By the time we went through the story in class, even though I had read the story twice before that, I felt like I was experiencing vertigo.
To a disoriented reader, the way the lexias are presented and written would simply make them come across as random, disjointed thoughts strung together somehow. I discovered in my first reading, this empowerment of the reader that Joyce tries to provide with this story. For a reader to make sense of the story, he would have to find the connection between the various lexias himself - that connection or conceptual link would help establish the story in the mind of the reader. Professor Landow even advised us that for us to be able to read the story properly, we would have to be very active, even aggressive readers. I understand both these ideas. Now, if only I can find that elusive connection?
I started at about the same point throughout the three readings that I had of Afternoon - the scene where Peter and Wert were conversing about wives and ex-wives. I moved on quite differently from there - I made a point not to bother about where I clicked before to make sure that the knowledge will not influence me in my next reading and affect my appreciation of the multi-sequentiality of this story. But even so, I came across repetition. There were at times where I thought I was getting somewhere, which means in other words, I was actually discovering a story unfolding, and then I hit a block - a point when I came across the same lexia again and again, no matter what I clicked in the lexia before. When that happens, I tried to understand why. I never did. I experienced frustration because the story I thought I was reading about never reached a conclusion for me, even when I tried to find it the next reading when once, I consciously tried to remember what I clicked.
I am sure some of us who have read this work by Joyce would have asked why exactly is it titled: Afternoon: The Story exactly? The multi-sequentiality and multi-vocality of this work would definitely make it seem like there are several stories in this one story but unfortunately I have yet to find the connection between them to make one story. Perhaps I have not yet done enough readings of it. How many times before it would be enough? Would it ever be enough?
Strangely, I enjoyed the novelty of having to wade through the different lexias in search of a story, or something to follow. It was strange to feel so many emotions at once while doing the several readings - excitement, wonder at the author who managed to come up with such a complex structure for a story and complex characters and ideas (at least I found them to be), frustration when the story I thought I managed to find had yet to progress to a conclusion which I could be satisfied with, and an overall sense of vertigo as I try to make sense of everything that is happening in the story.
In conclusion, perhaps if one tries to go in search for a one specific purpose and objective in the story, one would probably experience vertigo like I did. Appreciate each lexia on its own, and try to make sense of what you have read while taking a very open approach towards hypertext fiction. This story has multiple beginnings and endings, people say, which means there is no one specific destination to anticipate towards. In other words, just try and enjoy the ride.