Sutures and Scars

Tim McConville, Brown University '98 (English 112, 1996)

Film theoreticians use the word suture to describe a film's ability to cover up the cuts and fragments in film. If a film properly sutures the spectator, it hides all narrative glitches, such as jump cuts, voice overs, etc., and presents a fluid text that reads as "natural".

Shelly Jackson's Patchwork Girl, like all hypertext fiction, scoffs at the notion of a neat and tidy text, and lets it all hang out. Hypertext defines itself through visual and spacial disorientation; its individuality rests in its links. Similarly, Jackson's monster, who is far from natural, defines herself through her scars. The metaphor of links as scars stares a reader of Patchwork Girl in the face.

The act of reading hypertext denies the reader the opportunity of a fluid read. Regardless of how logical or natural a link seems, the mere act of jumping from one document to the next eliminates that possibility. Jackson seems to heighten the jerky effect of the hypertext ride in Patchwork Girl. She makes no attempt account for the nonlinear narrative, and in fact heightens its effect by making general references to hypertext and specific ones to storyspace. These references at times appear implicit and at others read as jarring and explicit.

To be linked to the chain of existence and events, yes but bound by it? No. I forge my own links, I an building my own monstrous chain, and as time goes on perhaps, it will begin to resemble , rather, a web.

"You may emphasize the presence of text links by using a special style, color or typeface." ("Getting Started with Storyspace")

Like film, Patchwork Girl and all hypertext implement suture, though not as a means of holding narrative together in one cohesive unit. Jackson uses sutures to tie various pieces together so that narrative may merely exist. After sutures have been set in place, the end result is a scar.