Friday, February 18, 2011

The Best Essay You Will Ever Read About a (Sadly) Dead Narrative Form

I tried for a long time to write something about this amazing essay on Choose Your Own Adventure books, but it is so fantastically thorough and so beautifully put together that there's not much to add. It is perhaps the single best thing I have ever read about narrative and I encourage you to have a look. Mindblowing. Books! Computer Science! Video games! Media theory! Statistics! Charts and graphs! The charts and graphs alone make this essay worth a look. Here are a couple to whet your appetite:

In the Mystery of Chimney Rock, the reader is carried inexorably forward.
In House of Danger, many are the twists of fate.
Also, don't miss the animations and the gallery that can be reached from the navigation bar at the top left of the page. You can even play the CYOA version of the classic computer text adventure Zork.

Since I grew up in the 80s, these books are a part of my reading experience which I will never forget, especially not the ending in the Lost Jewels of Nabooti that finds you shoved into a pit without anything to eat and drink. After three days of hunger and thirst, you have given up. Your lips are parched and cracked. All you can think about is water. And then a miracle: it begins to rain! Sweet, sweet relief! Within moments the rain becomes a torrential downpour, and the walls of the pit collapse, entombing you and drowning you in mud.

R. A. Mongomery, you are one cold-hearted jerk. I never did find the Jewels of Nabooti. I didn't want to die like that more than once.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Now That's What I Call Loving Literature!

Just a very quick post to draw your attention to this monumental and awesome project. For a year and a half, artist Matt Kish has been toiling away at a ridiculous, astounding, and flat out awesome task: to illustrate EVERY PAGE of Herman Melville's classic novel, Moby Dick. He started in August of 2009, and finished at the end of this January. If you don't want to read his musings on the process (which are fascinating) and just want to look at the art, you can see batches of pages here.

Here, for instance, is his illustration for page 550, which includes the quote:
"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!"

I think I have a contender for my next tattoo...

As you may or may not know, Moby Dick is also my favorite book. I could imagine myself, in another life, undertaking a task such as this. What books would you like to illustrate if you had the time and talent?