Review 2: ELC Top 4

Review #2                                                                                                       By: Mackenzie Gans

The Electronic Literature Collection (ELC) is a gathering of stories and poems on a website organized by the Electronic Literature Organization. These poems and stories are not displayed in the conventional manner using text bound in a book, but are presented on the Internet, many using an animation program called Flash. The use of the Flash program allows the authors to create very unique presentations of their work, and now to review four selections from the first Volume of the ELC.

The first item is Faith by Robert Kendall. This is a semi-interactive poem, because you have to click on the ‘next’ button to see the next part of the poem, much like flipping the page of a book. However, unlike conventional poems where there is a new page of words, in Faith the words simply re-arrange themselves into a new page. This is fun for the reader, who can literally watch the next page form in front of their eyes. The next piece, Strings, is also a Flash presentation, created by Dan Waber. Mr. Waber’s project consists of several small, separate Flash videos. Each video has a string, which morphs into a word or two. This shift might be an adjustment for the reader, as the words do not re-arrange themselves as in the last poem, but the words themselves completely change into a new word. The next video is the very accurately titled “Birds singing other birds songs”. It is made by Maria Mencia and features 13 different bird voices, which are voiced somewhat comically by humans. Some of the birds carry letters with their beaks; others are composed entirely of letters themselves.

The final poem is the most traditional of them all. Twelve Blue by Michael Joyce is an ensemble of 12 stories. This final piece differs from the preceding videos because it does not have any fancy string-bending or bird voices, but simply black text on a blue background. As well the 12 stories are not separate, but all inter-connected. Here I will reveal one example of the inter-woven nature of the tales, but only one because it is not good to give away too many details and spoil the story. In one of the narratives, a girl is at a lake, looking for her long-lost mother. She repeatedly visits the lake every night to search for her mother. An older woman also visits this lake to search for her son, and they end up meeting in their search for two different people. These stories are a pleasure to read because the fit together so seamlessly.

To summarize, these four pieces in the ELC are but a small piece of the entire Volume 1. They are new forms of media, and offer a new avenue of expression for authors. The only inhibitor when watching these is the reader’s mind. These four pieces are fascinating and can only be truly appreciated when the reader personally views them.

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