Groundless Enthusiasm

Cindy Tay, CCST02, "Telling Stories in Cyberspace," University Scholars Programme, National University of Singapore

Only upon my subsequent readings did I find reading Afternoon, A Story interesting. I had a bad experience with the hypertext on my first reading, mainly because I was not sure how to approach the text and how to use the text to my benefit. However, after some trails, I have to admit that although I am still not too sure about the plot of the story, I have indeed enjoyed myself while reading this hypertext.

First, the usage of first person narrative allows the reader to feel more engaged in the text. The multiple links, back icon, and "yes/no" option contribute to the interactive nature of the text as well. The various moods of the individual texts are often significant to the readers and the linkage provides some idea regarding the nature of the proceeding lexias. There were so many links to a single lexia that I wished I had the power to follow all of the links at the same time. There were also differences in text structures, which contribute to the indefinite nature of the story; I had the idea that inconsistency, though normally seen as a negative issue, is portrayed beautifully in this hypertext. For example, there were frequent usage of poems and dialogues to replace narrative voice. There were some lexias containing only a few words, which link to the other few words in the following lexias to form a whole statement or story. This seems to be addressing the issue of the stream of consciousness of the narrator, the unpredictable nature of the whole story.

The reason why I sometimes call this form of reading "groundless" is due to my ignorance when reading the lexias. Many times, I am not sure what is going on. Since I know very little about what the story is about, my enthusiasm would seem to be groundless. I was like a child, playing with his toy repeatedly. Yes, to be honest, this seems more like a game to me than a piece of work that I have to read. Some of us actually read this piece of work together. Therefore, what I know about the story is not solely my effort. Others have contributed much to my knowledge about the story. In this case, I parallel my attaining of knowledge of the story to a hypertext, many different links contributing information to one single destination. Thus, I would say as well that this piece of work is not solely my work.

Another point I would like to mention about Afternoon, A Story, is the ambiguity of the narrator. The story had started with one narrator, whom we had assumed would be the only narrator in the story. This pre-conceived notion that there can only be one narrator is torn apart by Joyce. I would say it is so typical of us to jump to such a conclusion. Maybe this is because most texts have only one narrator and this conforms us to think that there can only be a single person who could take the first person narrative. Like Italo Calvino in If on a winter's night a Traveler, Joyce had pulled the rug from under our feet. I liken the reading of this text to speaking to someone, the more you read it, the more you know about the person.

I do not think anyone can say he has truly understood what Joyce is talking about in this hypertext-book of his, because with every new reading, you discover something new about the story. However, whether the reader wants to know more about the story will be a different issue. This gives the reader self-determination in his reading of the story. To conclude, even though I was uncomfortable with the sexual references and images in this hypertext-book, I have enjoyed my reading of it.

Afternoon Discussion overview Hypertext Cyberspace Web