The Three R's : Reading, 'Riting, and Running

Jill Frankfort '99

I had been calm during the day, but so soon as the night obscured the shapes of objects, malformed positions are stamped on the unsettled shapes. 'Pull me out, please; I've sagged down dreadfully from walking so much, and men like to see a shapely figure.' She fell upon the ground, and the boy rolled her back and forth like a rolling-pin. When using a stand-alone hypertext, you can not change the document. Instead, the swaddling clothes themselves are endowed with corrective power. The soft matter on which they act can only submit to that power, and the body lengthened to its fullest extent. Suddenly the broad disk of the moon arose and shone full upon the ghastly and distorted shape as she fled with more than mortal speech. 'Don't my colors run whenever I run?' she asked. ("Form" in the Crazy Quilt)

This passage is one of my favorites, because it captures - in an absurdly abstract way - the essence of hypertext literature. A hypertext reader can not be passive; he must shape his own reading. A reader can only experience and understand the brilliance of intertextuality by making paths and flying through a hypertext document (As Jackson aptly says, "Don't my colors run whenever I run?").

Jackson's exploration of the concept of the author is also interesting. Her question, "Don't my colors run whenever I run?" reinforces the idea that authors working in hypertext environments can no longer call a work "their own." Indeed, hypertext "readers," who must create their own works, are authors in the own right.

Jackson's juxtaposition of texts and ideas is fascinating. By including lines like "men like to see a shapely figure" in this passage, Jackson presents not only an accurate explanation of hypertext, but a sharp social commentary. Through her compilation of texts and ideas as in the passage above, Jackson makes it clear that hypertext is truly a montage of readers and authors and texts.