if ('class topics' != 'syllabus')
Loops and Branches 1.0 (posted 2 February 2004)
Queneau, “Story As You Like It” (CP);
Coover, “The Babysitter” (CP);
Atwood, “Happy Endings” (CP).
"The Babysitter" is definetly a freaky story. I am going to read it again to understand the different storylines.
After the first few sections, I thought this was an interesting way to create the story, one person's perspective at a time. When I discovered the different sections were all different ways of telling the story, my mind started to hurt. I guess I'm used to a single linear story line.
My hypothesis is that this is just the author's rough draft; he couldn't quite figure out what story line he wanted to pursue, so he went back to different parts and changed them slightly. (It reminds me of how I write my papers.) Then he figured, eh this is good enough - why bother choosing when I can have it all?
I can't figure out which sections of story line I liked best. I think there’s a tie between the drowned baby, the raped babysitter, and the buttered up mother.
"The Babysitter" reminds me of the film, Run Lola Run, in which the female protagonist lives out three different versions of the same day. But unlike Groundhog Day, none of the characters are aware of these parallel possibilities.
In the beginning of "Babysitter," I thought that the story fragments were ordered kind of randomly, and then realized how the relation between the end of one fragment and the beginning of another can suggest even more tangent story lines.
I especially like thinking of this sort of story structure in relation to quantum physics and Multiple Worlds Theory.
Wow, "the babysitter" was certainly a disturbing story. I don't think that I could straighten out all the different story threads if I even tried. It seems to me that there are too many inconsistencies to have only a few different threads of the story. I agree with Annie to some extent. It seems like the author has a jumble of different possible events , some of which may be related, but many are not.
This wacky representation just adds to my disturbance, on top of the several horibble occurances (death, rape, murder..).
what struck me as this story's strongest point was that in reading it, one alone is responsible for choosing the plot that most aptly fits not only this reader's expectations but to a slight more subtle degree, the reader's memory of what was happening (and also looking back upon the story, i find myself to have only remembered scenes and plot lines that catered to my interests).
what is the plot of this story? firstly, i wouldn't call it that, i would deem it 'meta-plot' or something similar. the only one truly coherent and cohesive narrative thread running through this story is that it is a story - the ending "ties" together in some ways with the babysitter flipping through the channels, noting what kinds of genre she had cycled through in the different programs on television.
but kudos to the author for having written something this byzantine and have it remain cohesive. why haven't i read this story before in any of my other classes?
and one last thing: im sure each of us had to have experience a slight nausea or vertigo in coping with the branching plot, there seemed (for me) to have been some apex of clarity i reached before giving myself completely to the confusion of multiple universes coexisting simultaneously. strange how this kind of "epiphany" we can all read through, and most likely get something transcendant and subjective out of it.
What did everyone think of Queneau's "Story as you like it"? My first reaction was that it sounded like a dialogue between a parent and a child asking for a bedtime story... "Do you want to hear the story of the peas?" "No, not that one..." etc.
I found a digital hypertext rendering of this story that, while not particularly creative, is amusing:
One interesting part of the digital story is that unlike with the actual text, where it was easy to look at the path not taken due to the printed form, with the digital you cannot see the roads and story not taken nearly as easily.
There is no particularly interesting plot to draw the reader in, as there is (albeit in a twisted way...) in "The Babysitter." In the end, the "story" is unsatisfactory, and the title misleading... it's not really a story as the reader likes it.
The work does remind me of many of Queneau's other works that are interesting purely for their form or writing style, particularly his Exercises in Style, which has been decently translated into English. In that work he tells the same mundane short story over and over, 99 times I believe, but each time in a different style. Again the exercise is not interesting for the plot, but for the gimmick...
An online take on that particular set of exercises can be found at: http://www.growndodo.com/. The writing is hardly at the same standard, but the same principal is applied.
Wow, "The Babysitter" is definitely an interesting story. However all the different story lines and the way the author jumped around made it a bit hard to follow. I had to read it a few times to follow everything. It is also a little disturbing because it is taking all the bad things that could possibly happen while babysitting and mixing them together with one story line of a "normal" night of babysitting where nothing goes wrong. As someone who has done my fair of babysitting in the past this is especially nerve racking because when you are younger and in a new house you feel very alone and your mind starts playing tricks on you.
What I liked about "Happy endings" is the end explanation. The end will always be the same; it’s the beginning that is interesting. I liked the way all the stories were connected but at the same time could be seen as different unrelated stories.
"A story as you like it" was not as interesting as the other two in terms of content, however I did find it humorous and rather silly. This story uses the chose-your-own adventure techniques with the description of either peas, beanpoles or bushes. The reason I found it silly was because of the random descriptions and the way it seemed so important that you mind what color the velvet gloves of the peas were. In this sense it was very silly because it is things you don’t really think of.
I assumed that "Story as You Like It" was meant to show that though Queneau gives you impression of choice in the story, the choice is an illusion. Queneau is always in control of the content, the results of your choices, and even the choices you are able to make. It isn't really a story as you like, but the story you like most from your available options.
I agree with Erika's comment, you don't really have control over the story, just how you take the given story in. It also reinforces that no matter you want a story to be, it must have an end, whether it be the actual end or just the end of wanting the story to go further.
Dooes all literature following this form involve some aspect of violence, sex, and/or drugs or is this just a coincidence within the pieces we have already read. Certainly these topics are not in every single story but perhaps the newness of this literaty style has resulted in an increased occurance of such topics. Or maybe I just havent read a lot of books involving drugs and sex...
In "The Babysitter," I find it interesting that he chose the last two entries to be what are probably the farthest oppposites... one in which the babysitter had a good night and even did the dishes, and one in which everyone but Dolly is dead or gone. Especially since the deathly one is the very last.
I see the REAL story as stopping after the very first entry, though. Everything after is speculation, or falls into the Schroedinger's cat category.
I think I may have to name my next cat Schroedinger. Except then I'd have to call him Dingy or something for short...o well.
As a movie buff/ incredible dork i must ask if anyone has seen the Alicia Silverstone movie "the babysitter". The movie puts this eclectic mix of thoughts into a movie and works descently well. Check it out. Although, keep in mind its just as disturbing as the story.
On a sidenote, as im sure you all really care, i loved the way this was written. Its cool how things could have gone all these different ways. Its a dose of imagination, creativity, and reality. I was impressed.
I thought "The Babysitter" was BAD. The eclectic mass of perspectives was PAINFUL TO READ. I don't view stories that are difficult to follow or understand to be very worthwhile.
Story as you like it:
The tree branches off in two main directions; this story features two similar endings, and each has several paths leading to it. But is this story "as you like it"? Is choice an illusion?
The story is essentially an algorithm -- it all depends on the reader's choices -- if this... then that ... else ...
I like the multiple storyline idea. We observe several slices of life which occur in the same "time." But what is actually happening in the same dimension, and what is happening in parallel universes? Also, if we had not observed each of these mini-plots, did they actually happen ("Dingy's cat :)
Happy Endings reminds me of Ryan's "Tree Fiction" -- a single-track storyline with several side branches to choose from -- where the ending is always the same.