- Books, Reading, Uncategorized, Writing

Challenging your patience for thematic effect


“You can never not write about you.”

By way of addendum to my post of April 6, “Your Basic Bore, or ‘The Literature of Exhaustion,’” there is this interesting conversation about finishing long games over at Kill Screen Daily, called “On Endings” (an unintentional pun perhaps — ‘unendings’?). Given, it is a discussion primarily about reviewing games rather than playing them for pleasure, but, because of the insistence throughout on narrative being paramount to understanding, I thought it might be a worthy addition to the discussion, if only for how well it says many of the things that I’d like to say about that earlier post, cf. “Are these irritations a product of my own narrow imagination or narrow expectations of the game, or is the game actually more flexible than I’m giving it credit for, based on my presumptions?” Read “game” as “book,” and you’ll be pretty close to my feelings in that post. I know only that I read big books, that I lament reading them while I am reading them, and that, when they are good, I enjoy them thoroughly. I nodded my head at this line: “it forces you to get past your own instinctual reaction to it, and to really begin to examine why you’re reacting to it in that way.”  And thus, that post. More of interest from Michael Thomsen and Jamin Warren:

if you take the game as Everest, the review should be an account of getting to the top of Everest. What did it cost you; was it an easy hike not in terms of difficulty, but in terms of your own creative endurance? How quickly were you bored with it; how quickly did it become rote and repetitive; how much of a surprise was there in the ending; how much meaning came out of the boredom? I don’t want to just have peeked into the closet door and seen an undulating pile of nightmare slime in there, and shut the door again. I want to go in there and examine in close detail the whole awful specter of what I’m experiencing.

There’s actually a great deal in the conversation to like and to take in, even if you’re not particularly interested in games and gaming. Again, it is about narrative as much as anything.

Addendum to addendum: Tom Bissell linked to this conversation on his FB wall (or timeline, or whatever), which is how I came to find out about it. His post was immediately hijacked by a discussion of how quickly each of his commenters reads. Break out the tape measure. (Thomsen brings it up in the article– with some very questionable math (1500 hours? surely that’s a typo)– so it’s not entirely trivial.) One claimed to read 60 pages an hour, another, 100; ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t reading. I can’t imagine that that would be pleasurable. Please, go ahead and argue if you want, but you’re not taking in anything at that speed. Speed-reading (I know, I read a book about it, slowly) is the technique of scanning for ideas; but ideas reside in the words, and so if you skip several or don’t take the time to roll them around in your mind, you don’t get the idea at all. And why not linger? You can see Venice in a day, but why on earth would you want to? (You know it’s sinking, right? So stick around a while, geez.)

2 thoughts on “Challenging your patience for thematic effect

  1. This was a delightful addendum. There are some (game) critics who are slowly but methodically trying to construct an understanding of games and gaming as an emerging artform (even though it has been around as longer or even longer than, say, the novel), and your post here reminded me of them, at least in terms of looking at criticisms of gaming also being applicable to narrative. This becomes even more likely when discussing games where the narrative within the game is essential to its completion and ending. Interactive gameplay with compelling narrative most often yields crap endings (at least according to fandumb response).

    1. Hmmm….not sure what I was trying to say with this comment. I was pretty drunk from grading/responding to student fiction. Mostly just “thank you,” for writing on this and other subjects for us to read and respond to.

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