Sunday, March 29, 2009

You have chosen... wisely

Over at the tautologically named No One Does That, Blake Butler engages in one of my favorite forms:

Q: What did Anne Frank eat and drink when she was in the cupboard?

A: Anne Frank had large rivets in her skull cut from where while she lay in the womb her mother had smoked 'skonk,' Anne Frank's mother was heavy into the late 1920's Manchester black metal scene and had imprinted a large tattoo of a jackrabbit on her hind ass, as a result Anne Frank was capable of storing vast quantities underneath her hair that in her younger forgetful years she would often forget about until the taffy or goose fur or tea leaves she'd shoved inside herself had begun to rot and grow mold, it was because of the blue mold off a certain early kind of Triscuit that Anne Frank lost most of the vision in her right eye and often would faint without warning when she heard certain tones from birds

(The above: very cool. But I check out later on when Mr. Butler gets a bit Mark Halliday-ish: “I've Gogged the smeepie where I hardly borshbum Gogg I Gogg or Gogg. The neepy-nee-naw will keep on Goggsleereening without me, and Gog can't Gog anything to Gog lissmissum anyGogg. I'll just Gogg matters Gogg their leiffumwitzis and ictrerunnum on Gogg and Gogg Gogg Gogg will Gogg all Gogg in the nordvunt.”)

As a kid, I had a bunch of Choose Your Own Adventure books, where you always died, fell into a pit, got lobotomized, got knocked on the head, or were taken prisoner as an intergalactic sex slave on page 146). Wikipedia formally codifies the types of endings here:

At least one, but often several, endings depicting a highly desired resolution, often involving uncovering a handsome monetary reward.

Endings that result in the death of the protagonist, companions of the main character or both, or other very negative ending (e.g., an arrest), because of a fatal choice of the reader.

Other endings that may be either satisfactory (but not the most desired ending) or unsatisfactory (but not totally bad).

Occasionally a particular set of choices will throw the reader into a loop where they repeatedly reach the same page (often with a reference to the situation being familiar). At this point the reader's only option is to restart the adventure.

One book, Inside UFO 54-40, revolved around the search for a paradise that no one can actively reach; one of the pages in the book describes the player finding the paradise and living happily ever after, although none of the choices in the book led to that page. The ending could only be found by disregarding the rules and going through the book at random. Upon finding the ending, the reader is congratulated for realizing how to find paradise.

Maybe they’re the reason why I really like a fundamental level of uncertainty about a text. Alternate histories have this cool retroactive way about them, where anything could be allusive or invented. One of my favorite adolescent series was the Wild Cards, an alternate history version of America where an alien virus killed, mutated, or gave superpowers to whomever it infected. They were written by a bunch of different authors and went right up from WWII to the present. (Of particular interest to me and my gossipy historical tastes was the book that covered the 1988 Democratic National Convention.) I liked the way the popular culture and the vernacular was refracted through the prism of the virus. Possibly this is why I was born to both write and enjoy snarky poems.

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