I'd like to close with attention to one final text, Cigarette Boy by Darick
Chamberlin, which sports the Fieldingesque subtitle "mock machine mock-epic." The book is eighty-four pages
long, spiral-bound, and it bears no attribution of Chamberlin's authorship
other than his name in the copyright notice on the final page. The plot concerns an
intergalactic war, among other things. Here is one reviewer's impression:
"It is one long 100% uppercase, right -and - left - justified, stream-of-machine-consciousness textual dump. No, that's not really fair. It is, however, how it appears on the surface. The most obvious thing about Cigarette Boy is definitely its layout, and, to some extent, the presentation of the material matches the approach to the content: nearly impervious. Now, that's not to say that the content is impossible to decipher, nor worth the effort; it's simply woven in a complex fabric that approaches the human-unreadable. At one point I considered writing a program that would parse the text and reformat it into something easier to read, but the task of typing in the entire text was too daunting. I still think it would be possible,however, because the text, while about as forgiving as a jet-black obelisk, is arranged in a way that makes it susceptible to machine processing. In fact, the entire text is supposed to be machine-generated, or at least gives that impression."
Here we begin to see, and I would emphasize the word see, the emergence of a poetics of artificial intelligence, a material poetics which, to me at least, is far more compelling than specimens of computer-generated writing; the poetics of artificial intelligence are aestheticized instances of the digital wor(l)d and its virtual subjectivities, realized in the form of an incarnate and embodied text - whether than text be codex or electronic in form. Let me cite again from the review quoted above:
"Mixed-media cues nested in square brackets are mixed with images, background information, and indexing commands that give the impression that if you fed the "novella" into the right piece of equipment with access to the right libraries of audio and video footage, it would sit silently for a while, then emit a sonorous "bing" when it had digitally assembled the requested pieces into a "movie" or whatever term mixed-media interactive artwork eventually gets tagged with."
In fact, I don't doubt that the result would be quite a bit like Throwing
Apples at the Sun. But the
point is that Cigarette Boy, like the other works I've been discussing,
cannot be read abstracted from its presentation. Textual scholar Randall
McLeod's maxim seems appropriate here: the struggle for the text is tne
[sic] text. Parsing and reformatting
Cigarette Boy as the reviewer considers doing would constitute not the circumvention
of McLeod's maxim but rather its most literal recognition.