I’ve been sick this week, which means endless cups of tea and hours spent moaning on the sofa (I live alone, I can do these things). It also means lots of rest which, in my ensickened state means fever dreams. I’m not sure if fever dreams work the same for everyone, but for me what happens is I drift off to sleep with a tiny bit of an idea in my head – in this case it was about a long distance walk I’m training for – and my brain puts a pin in that one idea and spirals all new ideas from that one. So last night my dreams were structural, about endurance and exhaustion, about hydration and pain. Each new moment spun off into another related thought until my dream was a giant, binding web with this one original thought in the center. It’s a beautiful and intriguing process, or at least it would be if I wasn’t so tired from the spinning my brain was doing. Sometimes you just want to do the dreamless sleep thing, you know?
At this point you must be asking yourself what on earth any of this has to do with hypertext and literature. Well I’ll tell you. During my dreams last night there was a moment where I drifted into lit territory, where I was thinking about this class and what I needed to do before I came to class again and my own frustration with these bits of digital weirdness being labeled “literature”. And the fever dream laughed at my attempt to draw a box around what literature is or isn’t and it spun a thread that linked Charles Dickens indelibly to the app with the birds and in my altered, feverish state it all finally made sense. This electronic literature exists sometimes outside story, outside theme, outside logical, straightforward meaning. It’s a shadow of traditional lit, not in the sense that it is a lesser form, but that it only retains some of traditional lit’s characteristics and everything else is made up of new. And that’s what I think unsettles me about it, its unpredictability. Because literature for me has always been a safe thing, any newness presented within old familiar structures like a book or a page or a paragraph, and e-lit has no such boundaries.
Or maybe I just need to get some more sleep.