'I stole most of that last paragraph from the internet': How is the contemporary novel caught up in processes of remediation

?

Submitted by Justin Pickard (33172420) in partial requirement for the degree of MA Digital Media: Technology and Cultural Form in the Programme in Contemporary Cultural Processes, Goldsmiths College, University of London, September 2010

Supervised by Dr. Sarah Kember, Reader in New Technologies of Communications

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This dissertation is the culmination of a full twelve months of reading, notetaking, contemplation, and keyboard molestation. Though my clumsy grasp of time management provided a workload that occasionally bordered on the sadistic, I have relished the opportunity to study the strange and compelling mix of topics included in this Masters degree.

My heartfelt thanks go to the course convenors;
Dr. Sarah Kember and Dr. Joanna Zylinska

~ the Goldsmiths Skunkworks;
Mihaela Brebnel, Carmen Campeanu, Alyssa Ueno, and Steven Fortune

~ the Invisible College, that 'spooky, post-geographical' institution;
Catt Avery, Tom Henderson, Chris Doody, Jonathan D. Polk, and Hilary Dixon

~ the bookfuturists, journalists, and media archaeologists;
Tim Maly, Mary Hamilton, Jussi Parrika, Steen Christiansen, and Tim Carmody

~ the fictioneers, who ignited my passion for science fiction;
Neil Beynon, Shaun Green, Paul Graham Raven, and Gareth Lyn Powell

~ and the cheerleaders, without whom, I wouldn't have made it this far.
Karen Hancock, Harriet Eade, Ciara Brien, Ornella Greco, and various Pickards

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1

Introduction: Doing Literature as New Media

1

Chapter 2

Fictions of Mediation and Remediation, 1759-2000

5

Chapter 3

Gibson's Typewriter: New Media and Science Fiction

19

Chapter 4

Methodology: Textual Analysis in the Twenty-First Century

.

26

Chapter 5

Earth Sandwich: Affect, Mediacy, and the Global Village

32

Chapter 6

Tôkyô Dekameron: Diegesis and Distributed Cognition

36

Chapter 7

'Grind the Molten Bucket': Paratextuality and Digital Noise

.40

Chapter 8

Conclusion: Remediation and the Contemporary Novel

42

CHAPTER 1

Introduction: Doing Literature as (New) Media

What does it mean for a fictional character to admit that they 'stole most of that last paragraph from the internet'? The first clause of this dissertation's title is taken from the early pages of Douglas Coupland's 2009 novel, Generation A. In this extract, Iowan farmer Zack interrupts his stream-of-consciousness to directly address the reader:

'By the way, welcome to Oskaloosa and all the many features that make Oskaloosa a terrific place to visit. There's something for everyone here, from the historic city square with its bandstand to the George Daily Auditorium, the award-winning Oskaloosa Public Library, William Penn University and three golf courses. I stole most of that last paragraph from the internet. What the town's home page forgot to mention was my father's meth distillery, which got busted by the DEA a few years back. Dad and the DEA never got along too well.' (Coupland, 2009a: 4; emphasis mine)

Zack's juxtaposition of the official description from the town's website with his oral history creates a form of verbal irony; the 'sophisticated or resigned awareness of contrast between what is and what ought to be' (Merriam-Webster, 1995: 589). But where irony may be a long-established literary device, Coupland deploys it in a way that is peculiar to the twenty-first century. The impact of this passage comes not from the second paragraph's undermining of the first, but from Zack's disclosure that he had misrepresented information from the town's website as part of his narration. Thus the excerpt stands as an example of Bolter and Grusin's notion of remediation, even while its specific details gesture at a structure far more complex than the simple 'representation of one medium in another' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 45).

Elsewhere in the novel, Coupland's use of first-person perspective and past tense combine in an attempt to simulate the orality of the human voice. This is first-order remediation, as the author 'buries himself completely in the text (…) [and] disappears beneath the voices of his characters.' (Ong, 2002 [1982]: 145) For the purposes of this dissertation, however, my focus extends to other, potentially higher-order, acts of remediation. In the excerpt above, not only does Zack remediate the text from Oskaloosa's website in his 1

oral narrative, but Coupland then remediates that narrative; representing the affordances of orality in print.

Thus, remediation collides with notions of temporality, as Generation A enters into a relationship with both the oldest and newest of media. This Janus-faced remediation is a challenge to the narratives of progress and technological determinism, in which new mediums necessarily consign their predecessors to the dustbin of history. Bolter comments on the temptation 'to ask whether “this will destroy that.”' (Bolter, 2001: 2) He suggests that the question lacks a definite answer, and that what is most significant is that the question is being asked. In Fitzpatrick's investigations, this line of questioning manifests as 'repeated proclamations of the novel's untimely demise' (Fitzpatrick, 2006: 2); an anxious discourse which – in its regular recurrence – highlights the cultural tenacity of such teleologies. In this context, Bolter and Grusin's work on remediation provides a welcome alternative; a 'genealogy of affiliations (…) [in which] older media can also remediate newer ones' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 55).

My primary concern is the novel's status as an 'old' medium 'in new times' (Mackay and O'Sullivan, 1999: 4-5) – continuing to propagate, even as '[d]igital technologies, together with neoliberal economic relations, have given birth to radically new ways of manufacturing and articulating lived experience' (Shaviro, 2010: 2, emphasis mine). In this characterisation, Shaviro falls back on notions of technological determinism. While keen to highlight the co-constitution of new media and political economy, he continues to read digitality as a radical break in media history. Shaviro's 'post-cinema' is framed in terms of the remediation of an 'old' medium by a revolutionary and phenomenologically-distinct novelty. There was then, and then there is now.

Though I, like Shaviro, am focusing on the contemporary (after)life of an 'old' medium, it is important to remember that even 'old' media were once new. With a simple reframing, Shaviro's 'radically new ways of manufacturing and articulating lived experience' (Shaviro, 2010: ibid) could just as easily be applied to the novel in the eighteenth-century. A gestalt of technology (the printed book) and cultural form (literary realism), constructed as a typically transparent medium, this – the novel – was a phenomenon named for its very newness. As with perspectival painting or virtual reality, much of the modern literary canon 'promise[s] to disappear and leave us in contact with the unmediated world, [even as this] is a promise that [it] can never entirely fulfil.' (Bolter, 2001: 25-26)

2

Though the dominant mode of the novel seems to have been a realism predicated on transparent immediacy, this is not to suggest that it is the only thing of which the medium is capable. Indeed, in the context of this dissertation, I am far more concerned with a realism rooted in hypermediacy – an aesthetic logic which, in contrast to immediacy, 'acknowledges [the] multiple acts of representation and makes them visible' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 32). Bolter and Grusin invoke the example of the graphical user interface:

'[W]indows multiply on the screen: it is not unusual for sophisticated users to have ten or more overlapping or nested windows open at one time. The multiple representations inside the windows (text, graphics, video) create a heterogeneous space, as they compete for the viewer's attention. Icons, menus, and toolbars add further layers of visual and verbal meaning.' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 32)

Though certainly illustrative, this example is problematic; tightly hitching the logic of hypermediacy to notions of digitality and new media. Focusing on dynamics of remediation in the contemporary novel, it would certainly be easy for me to follow suit – reading an aesthetic of (digital) hypermediacy as the sole factor in the successful communication of 'what it feels like to live in the early twenty-first century.' (Shaviro, 2010: 2)

The reality, of course, is far more nuanced. In this dissertation, I suggest that mediacy – in all its forms – is so integral to our understanding of the world we inhabit, that any work of realist literature that seeks to grapple with human experience on a meaningful level must now also, necessarily, engage our relationship with media and technology. This entails a recognition of media's tendency both toward hypermediacy and immediacy, as framed in the context of an increasingly intensive, global, and digital media environment. We must 'explore digital technologies (…) as hybrids of technical, material, social, and economic facets' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 77-78); as part of a media ecology, where the relationships 'between different media are as diverse and complex as those between different organisms coexisting within the same ecotone' (Hayles, 2002b: 5). Remediation is simply one part of medial dynamics; a framework to understand how different media 'imitat[e] each other, incorporating aspects of competing media into themselves while simultaneously flaunting the advantages their own forms of mediation offer.' (Hayles, 2002b: 30) Admitting these theoretical observations, and understanding that literature should be taken as simply another medium, this dissertation seeks to interrogate the extent to which '[d]igital media are refashioning the printed book.' (Bolter, 2001: 3)

3

Structure

In telecommunications, interleaving refers to the non-contiguous arrangement of data – increasing the redundancy rate of the transmitted message, but allowing for error-correction once it is received. The second and third chapters of this dissertation present an interleaving of different elements and scales – combining analyses of the mediatic and affective qualities of a selection of novels; brief examinations of their historical and technological contexts; and discussion of the conceptual frameworks supporting my argument. To discover what is ontologically and phenomenologically unique about the role of remediation in contemporary fiction, it makes sense to begin with a historical survey. As such, these chapters stand as an early attempt at 'doing' literature as (new) media. Pitched somewhere between counter-canon and genealogy, they emphasise affinity over linear notions of progress, providing a bulwark against the noise of the teleological – from both literary and media history.

As part of a larger attempt to 'do' literature as (new) media, chapter four asks what it might mean to undertake this project now; in the autumn of 2010. Beginning with Richard Grusin's 2010 reappraisal of the dual logics of remediation, this chapter examines the case for using Coupland's JPod (2006) and Generation A (2009) as exemplar texts, before focusing in on appropriate research methodologies for the final stages of textual analysis. Having investigated the epistemological and phenomenological dimensions of the research question, chapters five, six and seven focus on three specific extracts and case studies from Coupland's novels. Using these studies as lenses through which to investigate broader questions, I focus on the representational challenges of globalisation, Ong's notion of 'secondary orality', and the move from a presence/absence ontology to an informational ecology comprised of signal and noise.

Finally, the eighth chapter stands as a conclusion; tracing a path through the various other segments of this dissertation in an attempt to answer the initial question, as to how the contemporary novel, taken both as medium and cultural form, is caught up in processes of remediation. The answer offered springs from an evaluation of the novel-as-medium, drawing on Grusin's writings about mediacy and affect, and considering both Hayles' 'remediated narrator' and the figure of the cyborg as potential sites of theoretical productivity.

4

CHAPTER 2

Fictions of Mediation and Remediation, 1759-2000

Working from a quantitative analysis of early publishing data, Moretti approaches the emergence of the novel as an incremental process, marked by periods of growth and stagnation. Tracing the graph of newly published works as it leaps from 5-10 new titles published annually (1720) to a new novel each week (1770), he reflects on the medium's slow march to ubiquity:

'As long as only a handful of texts are published each year, (...) the novel is an unreliable commodity: it (...) cannot really command the loyalty of the reading public; it resembles a fashion, more than a literary genre. With a new text every week, however, the novel becomes that great modern oxymoron of the regular novelty: the unexpected that consumers expect so often and eagerly that they can no longer do without it. (…) [T]he jeremiads that immediately multiply around it – novels make readers lazy, dissolute, insane, insubordinate: just like films two centuries later – are the sign of its symbolic triumph.' (Moretti, 2003: 70)

After this initial mushrooming of titles, Moretti argues that a second period of rapid growth (1770-1820) ensured a 'reorientation of audiences towards the present' (Moretti, 2003: 71) with enough new books being published to satisfy readers' desires for the new. In this reading, 'the novel does not develop as a single [discrete] entity (…) [and as] all great theories of the novel have (…) reduced the novel to one basic form only; and if the reduction has given [these theories] their elegance and power, it has also erased nine tenths of literary history.' (Ibid: 90)

This chapter, then, represents an attempt to recover some of this missing history. Concentrating on three texts which eschew the immediacy of conventional realism, this exploration – a partial genealogy – locates the seeds of a counter-canon in Lawrence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-67), Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler (1979), and Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves (2000). Taken together, these books mark various points in 'a long line of antimimetic novels' (Hansen, 2004: 607); their concern with their own technicity and materiality prefiguring much of my later discussion of the post-millennial work of Douglas Coupland and his peers. 5

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Serialised in nine volumes, Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-67) presents the supposed autobiography of its protagonist, Tristram. This is a highly circuitous narrative, with much of the text's humour arising from Tristram's struggle – and ultimately, his inability – to pen an exhaustive account of his life. It is not until the third volume that Tristram reaches the moment of his birth, with the preceding volumes given over to various explanatory asides; lengthy discourses on philosophy and eighteenth-century gynaecology; and potted biographies of his father, uncle, parson, and obstetrician.

Folding external sources such as Tristram's mother's marriage settlement (Sterne, 1759 [1980]: 2729) into the body of the narrative, the novel is constructed as a heterogeneous assemblage. These sources sit alongside Sterne's own graphological play – a black page standing for the pastor's death (Ibid: 23-24); a precis of the novel in graphic notation (Ibid: 333) – as a performance of 'nostalgia for the manual production of manuscript culture' (Fanning, 2009: 133). At the same time, however, Tristram is portrayed as acutely conscious of the technicity of his authorship. He speaks of his 'book as a machine' (Sterne, 1980 [1765]: 335; emphasis mine), addressing the means and circumstances of textual production:

'[A]ll this will be more exactly delineated and explain'd in a map, now in the hands of the engraver, which, with many other pieces and developments to this work, will be added to the end of the twentieth volume, – not to swell the work, – I detest the thought of such a thing; – but by way of commentary …' (Sterne, 1980 [1759]: 25)

Though these admissions undercut the immediacy of the novel, they take nothing from its immersive capacity or its claim to realism. Tristram is firmly embedded in the networks and technics of eighteenthcentury print culture and, as such, any discussion of the publishing process is taken as typical of his character; simply another digression – detail-laden, but ultimately incidental. Much like Coupland's Iowan farmer, then, Tristram bears a strong resemblance to what Hayles describes as the remediated narrator. Where the unreliable narrators of Christie and Hitchcock highlighted 'the role of consciousness in constructing reality,' (Hayles, 2002b: 116) the remediated narrator is:

6

'a literary invention foregrounding a proliferation of inscription technologies that evacuate consciousness as the source of production and recover in its place a mediated subjectivity that cannot be conceived as an independent entity.' (Hayles, 2002b: 116-117)

In Sterne's novel, this 'proliferation of inscription technologies' is pervasive. Though the text of Life and Opinions is most strongly implicated in the technicity of moveable type, Tristram also makes 'explicit references to (…) pen, ink and paper, pencil and paintbrush, the pentagraph, coin stamping, marbling and engraving' (Fanning, 2009: 134). No longer the sole site of narrative production, Tristram's consciousness is part of a larger assemblage. Thus, the remediated narrator is also a cyborg narrator – his subjectivity extended and mediated by technological prostheses.

Lacking the language of cybernetics, Sterne instead approaches this mediated subjectivity through the contemporary figure of the hobbyhorse (Illustration 1). Originally derived from the name of the wooden childhood toy, the term had also come to stand for a favoured pastime or pursuit – two meanings linked by the absence of a destination or end product. In the novel, Sterne combines the significance of the hobby with the material form of the original toy, such that 'a character's hobbyhorse literally manifests itself or is figured metaphorically as a tool or machinery' (Mottolese, 2007: 680). Tristram's hobbyhorse is his writing; his Life and Opinions – a pursuit cast in relation to that of his Uncle Toby, whom, having incurred an injury in the Siege of Namur (1695), begins with a desire to reconstruct the specifics of the battle:

'He was (…) lying upon his back in his bed, the anguish and nature of the wound upon his groin suffering him to lie in no other position, when a thought came into his head, that if he could purchase such a thing, and have it pasted down upon a board, as a large map of the fortifications of the town and citadel of Namur, with its environs, it might be a means of giving him ease.' (Sterne, 1980 [1759]: 59-60)

Framed in therapeutic terms, Toby's hobbyhorse constitutes a 'continually expanding array of tools, weapons, machines, and fortifications' (Mottolese, 2007: 692), which act both as salve and prosthesis. Though his recovery is 'gradual and perhaps never total' (Mottolese, 2007: 696), Mottolese argues that Toby's 'hobbyhorsical tools and machinery help bridge th[e] large gap (…) between an active and productive mind and a limited body' (Mottolese, 2007: 680); excising much of the trauma of his injury.

7

Illustration 1. 'My Uncle Toby on his Hobby-horse,' George Cruikshank, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

8

Like Tristram's pen, Toby's hobbyhorse is also a machine of inscription and representation. Moving the battle's re-enactment to the bowling green, 'tool use (…) becomes [Toby's] language, overshadowing or replacing words (…) [as] he writes his text with tools upon the earth.' (Mottolese, 2007: 692) For Sterne, such 'inscription is (...) a confirmation of agency and, as such, a means of self-knowledge in the existential sense: a moment of conscious self-identity.' (Fanning, 2009: 136) Thus, though the Shandean hobbyhorse is defined by the near-pathological obsession of its rider, both Tristram's writing and Toby's war games can be read as productive 'technologies of the self': practices which, according to Foucault, 'permit individuals to effect (…) operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being (Foucault, 1990 [1988]: 18). This, then, is Hayles' 'mediated subjectivity' – an early modern assemblage of print media, pen, and the human body.

With Tristram providing an early example of Hayles' remediated narrator, Sterne's novel is a convenient bookend for my survey of remediation; decoupling remediation from the specifics of our digital media ecology. For although the configuration of media and technology has changed immeasurably in the past 250 years, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman continues to resonate. The fountain pen, printing press and battle re-enactment may have been eclipsed as modes of communication, but the novel persists, and – with it – the phenomenon of remediation.

If on a winters night a traveler

'You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don't want to watch TV!” Raise your voice – they won't hear you otherwise - “I'm reading! I don't want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven't heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: “I'm beginning to read Italo Calvino's new novel!” Or if you prefer, don't say anything; just hope they'll leave you alone.' (Calvino, 1981 [1979]: 3)

This is the first paragraph from Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler (1979), a fiction of mediation, if not necessarily of remediation. Unlike the novels of Sterne and Danielewski, this novel is not an obvious precursor of the media-conscious novels addressed in the second half of this dissertation. Instead, I include it as a peripheral case; an unashamedly self-conscious work which identifies useful questions about the distinction between literary postmodernism and textual remediation.

9

For McHale, postmodernism is to be approached as a term 'signif[ying] a poetics which is the successor of, or possibly a reaction against, the poetics of early twentieth-century modernism' (McHale, 1987: 5). Where modernist fiction was primarily epistemological in its orientation – concerned with questions of knowledge – he suggests that we can identify postmodernist literature through its preoccupation with the ontological:

'[T]ypical postmodernist questions bear either on the ontology of the literary text itself or on the ontology of the world which it projects, for instance: What is a world?; What kinds of world are there, how are they constituted, and how do they differ?; (…) What is the mode of existence of a text, and what is the mode of existence of the world (or worlds) it projects?; How is a projected world structured? And so on.' (McHale, 1987: 10)

In this much, Sterne's Tristram Shandy, Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler, and Danielewski's House of Leaves each display the characteristics of postmodern fiction. That said, it is important to note that, just because a novel may be caught up in processes of remediation, or even aware of its position in the context of a wider media ecology, this does not necessarily make it a postmodern novel. The relationship between the postmodernist fiction and fictions of (re)mediation is far more complex; one cannot simply be mapped onto the other.

Read as a work of postmodernism, Calvino's novel is notable for the looping structures and selfconsciousness of its narrative. If we return to the opening sentence, with which I began this analysis, we can see how the novel begins by explaining that you, the reader, 'are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler.' (Calvino, 1981 [1979]: 3) From the beginning, our status as readers is incorporated into the workings of the text. If Tristram Shandy took writing as its subject, Calvino's novel can be seen as a meditation on the act of reading. Lacking anything that might resemble a conventional plot or characters, at least initially, Calvino's novel instead derives its momentum from a media-technical failure – or glitch – in the materiality of the book:

'Wait a minute! Look at the page number. Damn! From page 32 you've gone back to page 17! What you thought was a stylistic subtlety on the author's part is simply a printers' mistake: they have inserted the same pages twice. The mistake occurred as they were binding the volume (…) it's the sort of accident that occurs every now and then.' (Calvino, 1981 [1979]: 25)

10

Writing in the context of audio, Sangild offers a definition of the glitch as 'a minor malfunction or spurious signal, often related to a system or electronic device (…) not a collapse of the machinery (…) [though] the performance is poor – either annoying, problematic or downright useless.' (Sangild, 2004: 258) Here, in printed prose, the glitch takes the form of a binding error; though not quite the hypermediacy of Bolter and Grusin, it nevertheless manifests as a rupture in the novel's immediacy, creating a space to comment on the materialities and political economy of print publishing.

At each stage of Calvino's narrative, the Reader is confronted with a seemingly endless proliferation of first chapters – each one new; disconnected from those already seen. Operating within a pathology of narrative deferral, the Reader first returns to the bookseller, who reads a letter from the novel's publishing house that expands on the nature of the glitch:

'Through an error of the bindery, the printed signatures of that book became mixed with those of another new publication, the Polish novel Outside the town of Malbork by Tazio Bazakbal. With profound apologies for the unfortunate incident, the publisher will replace the spoiled copies at the earliest possible moment, et cetera.' (Calvino, 1981 [1979]: 28)

From here, the Reader traces the error back to the publishing house, where he is met by Cavedagna the publisher. Through this character, Calvino confronts our conception of the book as a self-contained, authored work. Revealing the inner workings of the publishing industry, he describes how:

'Cavedagna has followed books as they are made, bit by bit, he sees books be born and die every day, and yet the true books for him remain others, those of the time when for him they were like messages from other worlds.' (Calvino, 1981 [1979]: 102-103)

The publisher's world is a utilitarian work environment, in which 'books are considered a raw material, spare parts, gears to be dismantled and reassembled.' (Calvino, 1981 [1979]: 115) These words echo Benjamin's descriptions of the Dadaists as those who 'attempted to produce with the means of painting (and literature) the effects which the public [by the 1930s] seeks in film.' (Benjamin, 2008 [1935]: 38) In this context, '[t]he function of film [was] to train human beings in the apperceptions and reactions needed to deal with a vast apparatus whose role in their lives is expanding almost daily.' (Ibid: 26) These sentiments of Benjamin

11

resonate strongly with Shaviro's intent to use contemporary film texts 'to look at developments that are so new and unfamiliar that we scarcely have the vocabulary to describe them, and yet that have become so common, and so ubiquitous, that we tend not even notice them any longer.' (Shaviro, 2010: 2) Much as the artists and writers of Dada subjugated the commercial utility of their work 'to the uselessness of those works as objects of contemplative immersion' (Benjamin, 2008 [1935]: 39), perhaps we can cast Calvino as an early precursor of Shaviro, with If on a winter's night a traveler standing as his attempt to develop an account of what it feels like to live in Benjamin's age of technological reproducibility.

Ultimately, however, my decision to approach Calvino's novel from this perspective risks overplaying its similarities with the other texts in the genealogy; effacing its deep-seated, structural differences from those fictions of mediation by which it is flanked. To combat this tendency, we must return to the Bolter and Grusin's original explanation of the twin dynamics of remediation, in which immediacy and hypermediacy:

'are opposite manifestations of the same desire: the desire to get past the limits of representation and to achieve the real (…) [as] defined in terms of the [reader's] experience; it is that which would evoke an immediate (and therefore authentic) emotional response.' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 53)

Calvino's rupture of immediacy of the novel may suggest an aesthetic that satisfies the requirements of the hypermediatic, but – as ever – it makes little sense to cast the two dynamics in opposition. The remedial logic of immediacy is not coterminous with the transparent narratives of modern fiction, and, whatever the poetics of the postmodern, they alone are insufficient to support an aesthetic of hypermediacy.

Instead of multiplication, If on a winter's night a traveler is best read as an intensification of mediation. If remediation is the 'representation of one medium in another' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 45), Calvino's novel offers a representation of one medium – print fiction – in that same medium. Much like Sterne's Tristram Shandy, it fulfils the criteria of Hayles' notion of the technotext; 'interrogates the inscription technology that produces it, [mobilizing] reflexive loops between its imaginative world and the material apparatus embodying that creation' (Hayles, 2002b: 25). However, although it offers a novel and interesting account of the affective dimensions of print publishing and the novel as a textual artefact, If on a winter's night a traveler falls short as a description of the extensive media ecology in which we currently find ourselves. Compared with a text such as Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, it is clear that Calvino's

12

is a media ecology of a single channel: print publishing.

House of Leaves

Thus, if Tristram Shandy can be seen to provide an eighteenth-century bookend for this partial genealogy, House of Leaves (2000) stands as its millennial counterpart. Noted for its experimentalism and layered narrative, at the novel's core is the story of Will Navidson, a famed photojournalist – and specifically, his project to:

'create a record of how Karen [his wife] and I bought a small house in the country and moved into it with our children. Sort of see how everything turns out. No gunfire, famine, or flies. Just lots of toothpaste, gardening and people stuff.' (Danielewski, 2000: 8)

At its simplest, House of Leaves follows Navidson's documentary film, scene-by-scene, as it splices footage from 'a number of Hi 8s [mounted] around the house' (Danielewski, 2000: 10) with hand-held camera-work, interviews, and personal video journals. The film's early scenes are grounded in an optimistic domesticity, with Will and Karen approaching the move as a fresh start, 'replete with promise and hope.' (Danielewski, 2000: 10) Returning from a trip roughly a month after moving in, the family find an unexpected addition to the house. In the master bedroom, 'a plain, white door with a glass knob (…) [opens onto] a space resembling a walk-in closet' (Ibid: 28) – a door which Navidson's video footage proves was not there when they left. The walls of this mysterious space as described as 'perfectly smooth and almost pure black (…) [with] a second door, identical to the first (…) [that] opens up into the children's bedroom.' (Ibid: 28) Comparing this newly revealed space with the house's architectural blueprints, Will discovers a disturbing incongruity – the interior of the corridor is too long: the house is bigger on the inside. As Will and a shifting cast of allies investigate the abject space of the corridor, its dimensions vary, before finally opening onto a labyrinth that resists both explanation and exploration.

House of Leaves does not, however, begin with the Navidson family. It begins with Johnny Truant, a twenty-something tattooist hunting for a new apartment. Johnny's friend Lude alerts him to the death of Zampanò, an old man in Lude's building. Investigating the newly vacated apartment, the duo discover a manuscript – seemingly the work of the old man:

13

'Endless snarls of words, sometimes twisting into meaning, sometimes into nothing at all, frequently breaking apart, always branching off into other pieces I'd come across later – on old napkins, the tattered edges of an envelope, once even on the back of a postage stamp; everything and anything but empty; each fragment completely covered with the creep of years and years of ink pronouncements; (…) some bits crisp and clean, others faded, burnt or folded and refolded so many times the creases have obliterated whole passages of god knows what – sense? truth? deceit? a legacy of prophecy or lunacy or nothing of the kind?' (Danielewski, 2000: xvii)

The subject of Zampanò's sprawling, partial text is The Navidson Record – a film assembled from Will's video footage, documenting the investigation of the Navidson family's impossible house. In Zampanò's analysis, even the 'skeptics (…) grudgingly admit The Navidson Record is a hoax of exceptional quality' (Danielewski, 2000: 3), but Truant can find no evidence of the film having ever existed: 'You can look, I have, but no matter how long you search you will never find [it] in theatres or video stores.' (Danielewski, 2000: xix-xx)

Standing in stark contrast to the continuous narratives of literary realism, House of Leaves 'creates spatially distinct narratives with multiple cross connections, as if multiple voices were speaking simultaneously (…) us[ing] spatial discontinuity to indicate temporal simultaneity.' (Hayles, 2002a: 794-795) An overt interpenetration (folding) of narrative and ontic layers serves to destabilise received notions of subjectivity, imbuing the novel with a sense of precariousness which – intensifying over the course of the novel – is the source of some of the more overtly horrific elements that follow. This folding of media, 'screened through a complex temporality of remediation' (Hayles, 2002b: 115), echoes my original point of departure; in which Coupland's narrator, Zack, mocks his town's homepage by attempting to pass its text as his own words, only to disclose the nature of his deception with a personal counter-narrative. This notion of the parallel or counter-narrative is echoed in House of Leaves, as, in in his attempt to compile Zampanò's manuscript, Truant 'supplies footnotes, which (…) [rapidly] balloon into a competing but complementary narrative of their own.' (Hayles, 2002a: 780) It is in these footnotes that Truant first highlights his agency within the narrative. He does this by demonstrating his ability – and, more importantly, his willingness – to interfere with the main body of Zampanò's text:

'Zampanò only wrote “heater.” The word “water” back there – I added that. Now there's an admission, eh? Hey, not fair, you cry.

14

Hey, hey, fuck you, I say.' (Danielewski, 2000: 16)

Truant projects his subjectivity into another textual entity, the unexpected interpenetration of the text's various ontic levels serving to undermine the reader's assumptions about the functioning of the novel. Whether in Truant's inability to locate a copy of the The Navidson Record; his rewriting of Zampanò's text; or Zampanò's referencing of texts both real and imagined, Danielewski's novel 'insistently stages the futility of any effort to anchor the events it recounts in a stable recorded form.' (Hansen, 2004: 602) In Sterne's novel, the various textual artefacts could conceivably have laid claim to an independent existence outside the narrative – but, for House of Leaves, Truant's admission renders such an interpretation moot. As an example of the novel's postmodernist tendencies, we can see how 'the primary diegesis is interrupted so often, by nested representations in such diverse media that the fiction’s ontological “horizon” is effectively lost.' (McHale, 1987: 113-114) Thus, Johnny Truant provides another example of remediated narrator, navigating a layered landscape of inscription technologies, which 'include film, video, photography, tattoos, typewriters, telegraphy, handwriting, and digital computers.' (Hayles, 2002a: 780)

In academic commentary on House of Leaves, the predominant focus has been on the ways in which Truant's status as a remediated narrator manifests through the manuscript, particularly in Danielewski's manipulation of spacing, formatting and layout (Illustration 2). As a counterpart to our earlier examination of the cyborg narrator in Sterne's writing, these typographical peculiarities of House of Leaves offers the possibility of a cyborg reader. Approaching the book as a textual machine, allowing it to reshape our subjectivity in the same way as might a computer or mobile phone, it is important to remain conscious of our affective response to the resulting human-machine relationship. Focusing specifically on the temporal characteristics of the resulting hybrid subjectivity, Hayles comments on how – in literature – 'the time it takes to read a page functions as a remediation of [a novel's] narrative action in the life-world of the reader, linking real-time decoding with the intensity and pacing of the represented events' (Hayles, 2002a: 797). Entangled with the opacity of paper – 'a physical property that defines the page as having two sides whose relationship is linear and sequential' (Hayles, 2002b: 23) – this point of contact between the reader's affects and the materiality of the page provide the germ of a cyborg relationship. Here, we witness a 'cybernetic loop that runs from the page through the reader’s body and back to the page, a process that links the temporality of reading with the emotional pacing of the narrative.' (Hayles, 2002a: 797). In the context of House of Leaves, Danielewski is clearly willing to exploit this loop for literary effect. Take the example provided by 15

Hayles, in which the paranoid gun-toting actions of Navidson's former comrade, Holloway, are interrupted with:

'a seven-page digression (…) on how digital technology has eroded the sense of the real in
photography, a crucial rewriting of the Minotaur myth by Zampanò (…) with overstrikes that continue in all the text associated with the Minotaur, and an account of a mutiny against Magellan carried out by Quesada with the help of his servant Molino.' (Hayles, 2002a: 796-797)

Over these pages, the digressions proliferate wildly. Metastasising both Zampanò's commentary and Truant's annotations – they puncture the original remediation of the film, setting the reader adrift.

A second example of such temporal engineering can be found in Danielewlski's attempts to represent the affordances and materiality of celluloid in printed text – simulating the film reel running out, just as the characters are rescued from an uncertain doom. In contrast to the frustration of deferral outlined above, this is a more sophisticated, layered remediation. Danielewski begins with diegesis:

'The film runs out here, leaving nothing else behind but an unremarkable white screen.' (Danielewski, 2000: 307-311)

Here, however, my quotation proves inadequate; a failed remediation of its own, lacking the affective nuances inculcated through the author's manipulation of spacing and layout. Borrowing an orthography from the analysis of Hansen, 'with slashes indicating page breaks' (Hansen, 2004: 616), and recognising that the words of this phrase are spread over several pages and 'located at various heights on the page' (Ibid: 616), the phrase becomes:

'The film runs out here, / leaving nothing else behind but an unremarkable / white // screen.' (Danielewski, 2000: 307-311)

For Hansen, 'the blank page [between 'white' and 'screen'] functions as a material analog of the blank screen (…) giving a sensory correlate to the abrupt cessation of visual information that occurs when a film runs out' (Hansen, 2004: 616). The page after 'screen' is also blank, but for a small black circle – standing in opposition to the diegesis of the novel's textuality.

16

Illustration 2. 'Page 134', House of Leaves

17

With similar acts of remediation permeating the novel, Hansen is quick to highlight their 'prevailing media-technical function' (Hansen, 2004: 617). For although Danielewski's engagement with the digital is only ever oblique, both Hansen and Hayles seem limited to a reading of the novel's textual distortions as 'so many symptoms of the impossibility of representing the digital, of its resistance to orthographic capture' (Hansen, 2004: 618) – an interpretation which conflates the means of authorship with thematic focus. Certainly, House of Leaves satisfies the key criteria of ergodic literature, in which 'nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text' (Aarseth, 1997: 1), but this is not to cast it as a contemporary manifestation of the electronic literature so eagerly embraced by cyberculture in the 1990s. Though this is a novel could only have been written with an eye to the inscription technologies of contemporary publishing, Danielewski's engagement with the digital is cryptic – unlike, say, the recent novels of Coupland, whose digital subjects provide a focus for the second half of this dissertation. Danielewski's text may allude to digitality, and it certainly engages the multiple remediations of the contemporary media ecology, but this is insufficient. His focus is always the house of the title, with the various media only afforded importance to the extent that they aid in its representation; as 'the resistance of the house to orthographic capture yields an ever more complex deployment of technical mediation' (Hansen, 2004: 614)

18

CHAPTER 3

Gibson's Typewriter: New Media and Science Fiction

Where the fictions of mediation and remediation outlined above begin to suggest a framework for an analysis of the novel in relation to remediation, they lack any substantive engagement with the digitality and global reach of our contemporary media ecology. For The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, a book which pre-dates the so-called 'digital revolution' by over 300 years, the media-technical relevance of this text is derived from Laurence Sterne's unique position at the heart of England's burgeoning print ecology – an environment coextensive with the tail end of Moretti's first wave of literary popularisation. If on a winter's night a traveler sustains a near-total fixation on the technical affordances of print. Though written in an environment dominated by 'hot media,' each 'extend[ing] one single sense in “high definition” (…) the state of being well filled with data' (McLuhan,1964: 24), Calvino's attention is focused on the act of reading, and – as such - the novel lacks any sense of its position within a wider ecology. Published at the dawn of the twentyfirst century, House of Leaves is more explicitly implicated in the temporal and aesthetic dynamics of contemporary remediation, but – as previously discussed – the connotative nature of Danielewski's text precludes any direct engagement with the digital. His is not the hypermediacy of the graphical user interface.

To address this gap, I turn to science fiction – a genre defined by its engagement with science and technology. Hollinger notes how science fiction 'has come to refer (...) not only to a popular narrative genre, but also to a kind of popular cultural discourse, a way of thinking about a sociopolitical present defined by radical and incessant technological transformation.' (Hollinger, 2006: 453) Where the novels of the previous chapter were defined by their engagement with technologies of mediation and inscription, the texts examined here combine the same medial disposition with a sense of technical novelty; potentially the same 'newness' as that of new media.

Initially emerging from American pulp magazines of the late 1920s, in which 'the artwork, the scientific articles, the almost interchangeable stories and even the advertising (...) represented a single continuous flow of information about the technological future' (Atteberry, 2003: 36), the early history of

19

science fiction was dominated by teleological visions of unfettered technological progress; a modernist manifest destiny. Ultimately, however, this supposed 'golden age' of science fiction was notable for its relative homogeneity, with 'all the stories published in the magazines of the 1920s and 1930s (…) [standing as] thought variants: jazz-like improvisations on familiar themes.' (Ibid: 37) This continued until the 1960s, when – as a result of publishing pressures – short form science fiction began to give way to novel-length works.

However, where the science fiction of pre-war America had toppled into the ravine of technological determinism, the writers of the 1960s began pushing back against what Broderick reads as 'genre exhaustion' (Broderick, 2003: 49). Inspired by the cinematic existentialism of France's Nouvelle Vague, these authors and editors appropriated the notion of a 'New Wave', applying it to a science fiction 'almost equally disruptive, existentially fraught and formally daring' (Ibid: 49) as its cinematic progenitor. However stylised, this was science fiction as a literature of ideas; eager to engage with the phenomenological dimensions of then contemporary human experience – which necessarily included an recognition of the psychic impact of mass media. Speaking in a BBC interview from 1989, the British author J. G Ballard described the experiential novelty of:

'a media landscape dominated by television, the international press, by film and radio, which saturates our environment and creates a two-tier world in which we all live (…) above us, there's this global umbrella, which has now sealed itself around the planet, and virtually created a secondary reality – and there's constant leakage between the two.'

(Face to Face: J. G. Ballard, 1989)

In this, Ballard is almost paraphrasing Jean Baudrillard, that herald of the hyperreal. Earlier, Baudrillard had argued that the multiplication of media obliterated the indexicality of representation; severing the tie between representations and their referent. In its place, we enter a world in which:

'[w]hen the real is no longer what it was, nostalgia assumes its full meaning. There is a plethora of myths of origin and signs of reality – a plethora of truth, of secondary objectivity, and authenticity. Escalation of the true, of lived experience, resurrection of the figurative where the object and the subject have disappeared. Panic-stricken production of the real (…) this is how simulation appears in the phase that concerns us.' (Baudrillard, 1994 [1981]: 6-7)

20

Once again, we can return to Bolter and Grusin's description of remediation. Baudrillard's description of the escalation and exultation of lived experience under hyperreality certainly chimes with the notion of hypermediacy as an aesthetic governed by the desire for reality; 'multiplying mediation so as to create a feeling of fullness, a satiety of experience, which can be taken as reality.' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 53)

Prefiguring the hypermediacy of the digital interface, John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar (1968) is a 'New Wave' text with particular relevance for this study of literary remediation. Influenced by the writings of US futurist Alvin Toffler, Brunner documents a Malthusian nightmare of population growth and information overload. As a vision of the Baudrillardian hyperreal; a world governed by a regime of intensive and extensive mediation, Murphy reads Stand on Zanzibar as a 'polyphonic' novel – a text characterised by 'a variety of “alien languages,” including [in this example] social dialects of the future, and by their relativization of the authorial voice' (Murphy, 1987: 21). Where Tristram Shandy is ultimately a novel of a single voice, Stand on Zanzibar presents a cacophony of viewpoints; as seen in this extract from an early chapter:

'“Number the other: dichromatism is what's commonly called colourblindness, and it is sure as sidereal time a congenital disability. Thank you, participant, thank you.” Stal (short for Stallion) Lucas is a yonderboy, weighed, measured, and freeflying all the way. (IMPOSSIBLE Means: 1. I wouldn't like it and when it happens I won't approve; 2. I can't be bothered; 3. God can't be bothered. Meaning 3 may perhaps be valid but the others are 101% whaledreck. – The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan) Philip Peterson is twenty years old. Are you undermined by an old-style autoshout unit, one that needs constant reprogramming by hand if it's not to call you for items that were descheduled last week? GT's revolutionary new autoshout reprograms itself!' (Brunner, 1968: 5-6)

Taken from one of the chapters categorised as 'the happening world', Murphy suggests that this excerpt represents a 'written equivalent of video jumpcuts, splicing together a variety of pictures, ads, remarks and dialogues – many without context – in order to build toward a single reader reaction' (Murphy, 1987: 24). Experienced as information overload, this could be read as the 'existential vertigo (…) key to New Wave

21

textuality (…) an obsession with entropy [and] the tendency of all organized matter and energy to degrade towards meaningless noise' (Broderick, 2003: 56), but – equally – it could also be seen as inculcating Bolter and Grusin's 'satiety of experience' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 53). Either way, it is closer to the hypermediacy of the digital interface than anything presented by Sterne or Calvino – and where Danielewski tackled the technical affordances of specific media forms, Brunner engages far more explicitly with their political and economic underpinnings.

Where Brunner and Ballard can be said to have pre-empted much of the new media ecology, there is space to argue that the next wave of science fiction might have created it, as the 'New Wave' hardened into cyberpunk. This new generation of science fiction authors began to write 'about the information explosion of the 1980s, most of them picturing a dense, urban, confusing new world in which most of us will find that we have been disenfranchised from any real power.' (Clute, 2003: 67) If the energy of 'New Wave' was powered by an anxiety about information's collapse into noise, cyberpunk embraced this tendency – combining the technoscientific logic of cybernetics with a punk sensibility, it could 'be regarded as the deconstruction of science fiction tradition “with as much attendant noise as possible.”' (Heuser, 2003: 30) In the context of new media, the genre also prefigured 'a different kind of communications assemblage looming on the technological horizon (…) in which familiar media – and the differences that separate media make – disappear or assume completely new forms.' (Johnston, 1998: 6-7)

This prefiguration of new media was most explicit in William Gibson's Neuromancer (1984), since positioned as the defining text of the subgenre. Gibson's text gave us the first description of cyberspace:

The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games (…) in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks. (…) Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding...' (Gibson, 1984: 69)

However unwise it may be for a genealogical analysis to hail a single point of origin, this must be admitted as the Ur-text of new media, allowing for a '[c]yberspace constructed from representations of information.' (Heuser, 2003: 28) The fact that Gibson's novel was originally composed on a manual typewriter serves to

22

reinforce the notion of cyberspace as a primarily narrative device, a medium of spatialised information which resisted representation in all but the most general terms. As Clute comments:

'Gibson was notoriously ignorant of computer technology, and [as such] (...) his sorting of a storyable version of the inside of the world of information was essentially a literary coup: cyberspace is a literary metaphor of very considerable brilliance, and if the world (…) in some ways resembles the world he created (…) then it is because the world, and the writers who articulate the world, have imitated Gibson.' (Clute, 2003: 70-71)

Heuser suggests that although Gibson 'subsequently lost control over the meaning of cyberspace, (…) the richness of its associations and commentaries (…) remains a distinct measure of its value.' (Heuser, 2003: 39) As such, this chapter is named both for Gibson's typewriter – in its capacity as a figuration of new media's literary origins – and for an article of the same name by Bukatman, in which he unpacks the anecdote; seeking to deconstruct its significance for literature and cultural studies. For Bukatman, the detail of Gibson's Hermes 2000 typewriter serves to assuage the anxieties of obsolescence outlined earlier by Fitzpatrick – creating the space for two possible readings of Neuromancer. In the first reading, the novel's typewritten origins enable it to be 'reinserted into canonical understandings of literature, as the terrors of the electronic age are displaced to a safe distance.' (Bukatman, 2003 [1993]: 33) From the perspective of the technically-literate, on the other hand, the existence of Gibson's typewriter reinforced their affective investment in the text; 'construct[ing] them as cyberspace cowboys with abilities superior to even those of cyberspace's architect.' (Ibid: 33) In Clute's analysis, it was this latter group of readers who set out to realise Gibson's vision – transforming cyberpunk from literary genre to subculture; specifically, a 'cyber-culture [that] became firmly entrenched in Californian culture' (Heuser, 2003: 17), where it spawned innumerable Silicon Valley start-ups, the world wide web, and Wired Magazine.

After Neuromancer, Gibson wrote two more novels in the same continuity, and then – in the 1990s – a second trilogy, set in a near-future California. In the first years of the twenty-first century, however, he began to recognise the experiential and affective distinctness of the decade; grappling with the challenges of writing science fiction for 'a present infused with futurity, no longer like itself, no longer like the present' (Hollinger, 2006: 457) Here, Gibson's first novel of the 2000s, Pattern Recognition (2003) represents a break with his earlier work. It is set in the present, marking 'the culmination of a process in Gibson's novels whereby the future has come ever closer.' (Poole, 2003) As Gibson himself comments in 2003 interview; 'we

23

are living in a world that resembles nothing so much as (…) dozens of overlapping (…) science-fiction scenarios [where] attempt at literary naturalism (…) will bring the author into direct contact with material that 20 years ago would have been barely publishable as science fiction.' (Ibid)

In this text, 'coolhunter' Cayce Pollard is hired by a Belgian business magnate to hunt down the artist or maker behind 'The Footage': 'a mysterious collection of film clips circulating on the Internet and attracting obsessive attention from an increasing number followers (…) [whose] attempts to link up the segments into some sort of coherent whole [are] about 'pattern recognition'.' (Skeates, 2004: 137) Outside of this digital MacGuffin1, the world described is recognisable as our own – a world of spam email, Google, and internet message boards:

'Hotmail downloads four messages, none of which she feels like opening. Her mother, three spam. The penis enlarger is still after her, twice, and Increase Your Breast Size Dramatically.' (Gibson, 2003: 5)

'“I Google you, I get … ?” “Sound of relatively high-profile start-up, tanking loudly. Certain amount of 'white-hat hacker' coverage, before that, but that's the media.”' (Ibid: 103)

'She's spoken with Parkaboy twice before, and both times it's been odd, In the way that initial telephone conversations with people you've gotten to know well on the Net, yet have never met, are odd.' (Ibid: 139)

For much of the novel, action is sparse, 'envelop[ing] the reader in an atmosphere of murky apprehension, searching for the pattern amidst a welter of precisely drawn details that do not quite cohere into plot.' (Hayles, 2006: 144) In this, Hayles suggests that the novel mirrors the Footage, 'creating a narrative about creating a narrative about code' (Ibid: 147), with Gibson sacrificing the energy and drive of narrative in order to communicate the affective character of the contemporary.

1 A term coined by Hitchcock to describe 'something that starts or drives the action of the plot but later turns out to be unimportant' (Bloomsbury, 2001: 863), the provenance of Pattern Recognition's footage is important to Cayce and Parkaboy, but, once revealed, has little real impact. 24

Although Pattern Recognition was originally intended as a stand-alone novel, Gibson followed it with Spook Country (2007) – a sequel of sorts, using a similarly near-contemporaneous setting. With one of the plot strands of this second novel focusing on the practice of locative art, Gibson took the opportunity to reflect on his original vision of cyberspace. In this extract, he seems to be hailing the transparent immediacy of virtual reality as a model of media that was hindered, and ultimately eclipsed, by real-world technology:

''What's here, Alberto? What are we here to see?' Hollis demanded, as they reached the corner. He knelt and opened the case. The interior was padded with blocks of foam. He extracted something that she at first mistook for a welder's protective mask. 'Put this on.' He handed it to her. A padded headband, with a sort of visor. 'Virtual reality?' She hadn't heard that term spoken aloud in years, she thought as she pronounced it. 'The hardware lags behind,' he said. 'At least the kind I can afford.' (Gibson, 2007: 7)

The irony of this disconnect between representational promise and reality leads smoothly into the next chapter, in which I seek to embed Gibson's post-millennial novels in a broader theoretical context. Building on the analyses of medial fiction and science fiction outlined in the previous two chapters, I will also begin assembling a methodological framework with which to examine the dynamics of remediation in the contemporary novel.

25

CHAPTER 4

Methodology: Textual Analysis in the Twenty-First Century

Having explored what it might mean to 'do' literature as (new) media, it is also important to ask what is entailed in starting this project now; at 'the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century' (Grusin, 2010: 2). If Shaviro is right, and '[d]igital technologies (...) have given birth to radically new ways of manufacturing and articulating lived experience' (Shaviro, 2010: 2), what combination of methodological and analytical tools can prepare us for the challenges of contemporary remediation? With Hayles commenting that 'literary and cultural critics steeped in the print tradition cannot simply continue with business as usual' (Hayles, 2005: 11), how can we hope to progress?

To effectively answer these questions we must first update our understanding of remediation. Returning to the topic in his 2010 book Premediation, Grusin offers a reappraisal of his and Bolter's original analysis. Where their version of remediation was originally predicated on a 'belief in some necessary contact point between the medium and what it represents' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 25), Grusin's reappraisal serves to complicate this relationship. With the events of 9/11 providing a point of inflection, he takes the fervid mediation of the attacks (and their aftermath) as a point of departure for his examination of a media ecology presented as both 'new' in character and global in reach. Though it is tempting to decry the fixation on 9/11 as an arbitrary temporal marker, Stepinska explains that '[s]ince the whole world saw the same images at the same time, real time, the attacks became a common mass-mediated experience' (Stepinska, 2009: 211); with Skeates hailing 9/11 as 'instant history supplied by a media which completes the experience with a commentary which enables all of us to feel in some way present, involved even, in the global event matrix.' (Skeates, 2004: 139) In the post-9/11 context, as per Baudrillard, mediation and reality are no longer simply coterminous but fundamentally co-constitutive: 'The real is no longer that which is free from mediation, but that which is thoroughly enmeshed with networks of social, technical, aesthetic, political, cultural, or economic mediation.' (Grusin, 2010: 3) Here, claims Grusin, reality is 'defined not in terms of representational accuracy, but in terms of liquidity or mobility.' (Ibid: 3) When the burgeoning capabilities of digital media allow a photograph to be doctored with the click of a mouse, a media artefact's claim on

26

indexicality can no longer be derived from the technical affordances of the medium, but must be deduced from its context vis-à-vis the network – to what extent is this text supported by context; by other accounts of the same reality?

Certainly, older forms of remediation persist under the new regime, but the dual logics of immediacy and hypermediacy have found new life in the networked protocols of contemporaneity. With a greater emphasis on the entwined, hybrid relationship of mediation and reality, immediacy is no longer the selfeffacing transparency of Gibsonian cyberspace. Instead, this remedial dynamic of immediacy is expressed as seamlessness; manifesting as 'an unconstrained connectivity so that one can access with no restrictions one's socially networked mediated life at any time or anywhere through any of one's media devices.' (Grusin, 2010: 2) Contrast this with Jenkins' notion of 'convergence culture', a term he uses to describe:

'the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want.' (Jenkins, 2006: 2)

The lived reality of immediacy is less about the experience of media as if unfiltered or unframed, and more about a continuous, unbroken flow of mediation. Where immediacy would once have been manifest in the perceptual immersion engendered by, say, the early films of the Lumière brothers2, its contemporary form proved rather different. From Gibson's Spook Country; technologist Bobby Chombo:

'We're all doing [virtual reality], every time we look at a screen. We have been for decades now. We just do it. We didn't need the goggles, the gloves. It just happened. VR was an even more specific way we had of telling us of where we were going. Without scaring us too much, right?' (Gibson, 2007: 65)

Taking the place of the VR rig, today, platforms such as Twitter and Facebook Connect offer the closest thing to Bolter and Grusin's original vision of immediacy – 'mak[ing] seamless one's multiple interactions with commercial and social networking, (…) shopping and entertainment preferences.' (Grusin, 2010: 2)

2 Interestingly, the Lumière Brothers get a name-check in Pattern Recognition, as part of Cayce's encounter with Damien's home cinema system: 'It is as if she participates in the very birth of cinema, that Lumière moment, the steam locomotive about to emerge from the screen, sending the audience fleeing, out into the Parisian night.' (Gibson, 2003: 23) 27

If immediacy was originally about the transparency of media, hypermediacy was a dynamic of opacity. With media consumption treated as analogous to the passage of light, hypermediacy impedes the capability of content to pass for unfiltered reality. By distancing the viewer from the action, it engineered a space for critical reflection, 'mak[ing] us aware of the medium or media and (in sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious ways) remind[ing] us of our desire for immediacy.' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 34) Hypermediacy entailed a recognition that 'knowledge of the world comes to us through media' (Ibid: 70), but, in an environment where media and reality are increasingly enmeshed, it is no longer enough for an audience to be aware of their experience 'in and of the presence of media' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 71). Consider the 'formation and evolution of social groups among “digital youth,” [in which] affectivity is distributed among an amorous assemblage of humans and nonhumans, in a kind of group or open relationship including social networking software, cellphone, email, YouTube videos, music sharing, videogames, and so forth.' (Grusin, 2010: 118) For Grusin, then, today's hypermediacy is 'the hypermediacy of network connectivities, of affective participation in and distribution of one's networked identity across multiple sociotechnical and medial networks.' (Ibid: 2)

The challenge here, then, is in identifying the analytical tools that will enable an accurate and multidimensional analysis of these remedial tendencies in literature that is attempting to describe and chronicle the world of its writing. This, for Gonzalez, is a time of 'disillusion and crisis, catastrophe and ongoing apocalypse, artificially enhanced but also trivialized by incessant mediation' (Gonzalez, 2008: 113), and for Sterling, ours is 'a cyberneticized, globalized, liberal capitalism in financial collapse' (Sterling, 2009: 24). In a paragraph reminiscent of the deconstruction of a daily newspaper with which French anthropologist Bruno Latour opened We Have Never Been Modern (1993 [1991]), Csicsery-Romay, Jr., urges us to contemplate the increasingly science fictional sensibility of the news media:

'Consider the daily news: the postmodern hecatomb of the World Trade Center; Chernobyl’s lost villages and mutant flora; CGI pop stars; genocide under surveillance satellites; the cloning of farm animals; Internet pornography raining down in microwaves; helicopter gunships deployed against stone-throwing crowds; GM pollen drifting toward the calyces of natural plants; Artificial Life; global social movements (and even nations) without territories; the ability to alter one’s physical gender; the evaporation of the North Pole.' (Csicsery-Romay, Jr., 2008: 2-3)

For Csicsery-Romay, Jr., as for Bolter and Grusin, the 'events of our mediated culture are constituted by

28

combinations of subject, media, and objects, which do not exist in their segregated forms (…) [and, as such] there is nothing prior to or outside the act of mediation.' (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 58) In each of these descriptions, the media-technical apparatus prove integral to our everyday experience of an increasingly complex and chaotic world. This is the world of Pattern Recognition and Spook Country; our world, more or less, and the same world Douglas Coupland presents in JPod and Generation A. It is a world of:

'hi-technologies and hi-tech commodities, and all the science fictional elements in it-the hi-speed travel and instant global communications, the esoteric and labyrinthine practices of multinational businesses, the virtual computer-mediated relationships through which much of the action develops-are increasingly familiar features of the contemporary landscape.' (Hollinger, 2006: 464)

In seeking to apprehend this contemporary landscape through the lens of literature, our question mirrors that of Tate, who asks how 'a novelist [might] represent contemporary, globalized reality if that world and its citizens have become plotless' (Tate, 2007: 38). In seeking an answer to this question, my earlier attempts at 'doing' literature as (new) media have laid the groundwork for a close reading of Douglas Coupland's novels JPod (2006) and Generation A (2009). This will be a textual analysis grounded in Bolter and Grusin's theories of remediation, and necessarily informed by Hayles' model of media-specific analysis – which entails a recognition of literature's status as 'the interplay between content, form and medium (…) [and an] insist[ance] that texts must always be embodied to exist in the world.' (Hayles, 2002b: 31)

Both novels are difficult to summarize, steeped – as is typical for Coupland's work – so heavily in the pop-cultural detritus which fuels the motor of our contemporary media ecology. For JPod, Itzkoff provides a useful precis – distilling the lengthy text to a matter of paragraphs:

'Ethan Jarlewski, the novel's narrator, is a disenchanted video-game programmer saddled with parents less mature than he is: his mother runs a "grow-op" (which is a nice way of saying she sells pot), while his father works as a movie extra, (…) But the true source of Ethan's suffering — as well as his only island of stability — is jPod, the work space where he and his young colleagues are supposed to be redesigning a skateboarding game to include an edgy new turtle character, but instead spend their days flash-freezing their office detritus with liquid nitrogen, pretending to auction themselves on eBay, and imagining that their miniature acts of protest are anything but attempts to stave off adulthood.' (Itzkoff, 2006)

29

Where JPod charts a path broadly continuous with Coupland's earlier work – revisting certain themes and character archetypes – Generation A is an altogether more complex and nuanced text. Though likely intended as a counterpart to Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture (1991), Generation A sees Coupland moving in an opposite direction to Gibson – abandoning his usual contemporary settings for an unspecified, if at least nominally science fictional, near future. From Coupland's own synopsis:

'In the near future bees are extinct – until one autumn when five unconnected individuals, in Iowa, New Zealand, Paris, Ontario, and Sri Lanka, are stung. Immediately snatched up by ominous figures in hazmat suits, interrogated separately in neutral Ikea-like chambers, and then released as 15-minute-celebrities into a world driven almost entirely by the internet, these five unforgettable people endure a barrage of unusual and highly 21st-century circumstances.' (Coupland, 2009b)

By describing his characters as enduring 'a barrage of unusual and highly 21st-century circumstances,' Coupland seems to be acknowledging the distinctiveness of the twenty-first century. In Generation A, Coupland grapples with this peculiar phenomenology by projecting it forward – envisaging a world of even more intensive mediation as it might be, say, ten years from now. In doing so, this novel, perhaps above all others, captures Shaviro's original grail: an account of what it feels like to live in a world where '[d]igital technologies, together with neoliberal economic relations, have given birth to radically new ways of manufacturing and articulating lived experience' (Shaviro, 2010: 2).

In limiting the final stage of research to a close reading of the works of a single author, however, there is an implicit tendency toward typological thinking – wherever we 'choose a 'representative individual,' and through it define the genre as a whole (…) [believing] it counts as an analysis of the entire genre, because (...) there is really no gap between the real object and the object of knowledge.' (Moretti, 2004: 52). The map becomes the territory. As such, it it is important to state that, in my choice of JPod and Generation A, I am not making the claim that they are necessarily typical examples of the twenty-first century novel as a category of analysis. In the words of Veel:

'in a world globally linked by media that provide us with continuous information (…) literary fiction [can] either reinforce the difference between fictional storytelling and the flow of information (…) [or] it can aim to incorporate the overload of information (…) creating stories that respond to what seems to be the current cultural conditions of information processing.’ (Veel, 2009: 9-10)

30

In this context, JPod and Generation A represent exemplary examples of the latter. In the following analysis, they should be read as outliers; occupying an extreme on the continuum of contemporary literature's remedial tendencies.

31

CHAPTER 5

Earth Sandwich: Affect, Mediacy, and the Global Village

In grappling with the affordances of the post-millennial media ecology, Generation A, perhaps more than any of Coupland's other recent novels, is informed the techno-utopian writings of Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan. In the 1960s, McLuhan heralded the capacity of new communication technologies to 'recreate the world in the image of a global village' (McLuhan, 1962: 43), in which real-time communication would transcend the impediments of physical distance. Writing with Fiore in War and Peace in the Global Village (1968), McLuhan describes how:

'[o]urs is a brand-new world of allatonceness. 'Time' has ceased, 'space' has vanished. We now live in a global village (…) a simultaneous happening. We are back in acoustic space. We have begun again to structure the primordial feeling, the tribal emotions from which a few centuries of literacy divorced us.' (McLuhan and Fiore, 1967: 63)

Compare this characterisation of the 'global village' as a 'cosmic membrane (…) snapped around the world by the dilation of our various senses.' (McLuhan, 1962: 32) with the following extract – taken from the narration of Samantha, another of Generation A's remediated protagonists. Here, she describes how, at the time of the bee sting, she was:

'standing up to photograph [a] slice of bread using my mobile phone. Why would you have been doing this? I hear you wonder. Excellent question. I was making an “Earth sandwich.” What is an Earth sandwich? Fair enough. It's when you use online maps to locate the exact opposite place on the planet from you, and then you hook up with someone close to that place. Then, after you mathematically figure out exact opposite GPS coordinates to within a thumbnail's radius, you put a slice of bread of that spot, then connect via cellphone and simultaneously snap photos: two slices of bread with a planet between them. It's an Internet thing. You make the sandwich, you post it, and maybe someone somewhere will see it, and once they've seen it, you've created art. Bingo.' (Coupland, 2009a: 9; emphasis mine)

It is tempting to read this as a an illustrative example of the global cultural practice of the amateur or

32

hobbyist under a condition of intensive global and digital mediation. If the 'earth sandwich' stands as a figuration of the creative promise in McLuhan's 'global village,' it also represents a form of geolocative media art intimately engaged with the 'everted cyberspace' of Gibson's Spook Country; virtual reality after the headset. It's an Internet thing, both here and in the 'real' world, where the 'Earth Sandwich' had its origins in a challenge issued by internet comedian Ze Frank in May 2006, in which he set the viewers of his video podcast the task of organising and assembling their own 'earth sandwich' before anyone else. 3 As a figure of the social promise of electronic media and globalisation, it can be seen as a textual equivalent of NASA's 'Blue Marble' photograph; an artifact of the emerging global culture.

In the context of this technologically-mediated hobbyist practice, Samantha's reliance on her mobile phone camera demonstrates the ways in which the 'seeming omnipresence of mobile networked media devices [has] change[d] the nature of physical embodiment and identity.' (Grusin, 2010: 91) Not only is it an example of the mobile device as media-technical prosthesis, but it illustrates how, now, 'immediacy and presence (…) seem to be associated as much with one's mediated relationships with absent others as with one's (albeit equally mediated) relationships with people sharing the same physical space or embodied environment.' (Ibid: 91) McLuhan's 'global village' may have been criticised as utopianism, but, through these kind of computer-mediated practices, the early promise of electronic communication appears to have been realised. Later in the novel, emerging from a period of solitary confinement after the bee sting, Samantha returns to the site of her half of the 'earth sandwich'. By this point, it is:

'surrounded by a square cyclone fence topped with razor wire – maybe a hundred meters by a hundred meters. Stuck in the fence's links were poems and letters and photos and drawings of bees. It reminded me of New York after 9-11, except nobody had died – instead, some form of hope had been reborn. I got choked up as it dawned on me that what was to me an annoyance was a ray of hope for a hope-starved world. We parked the car and walked among a crowd of a hundred or so hard-cores. I was delighted to see, mounted on two poles within the sting enclosure, a beautiful photo of Madrid, Spain – the other half of my Earth sandwich – the corner of Calle Gutenberg and Calle Poeta Esteban de Villegas, where a group of people in bumblebee costumes were waving at the photographer.' (Coupland, 2009a: 117)

3 As in Coupland's novel, the first successful earth sandwich saw '[a] baguette (...) placed in Spain, near Madrid at the same time that another baguette was placed in New Zealand outside of Aukland' (Frank, 2006). For more information, see: <http://www.zefrank.com/sandwich/> 33

In this extract, Coupland uses '9-11' as shorthand for a certain type of collective social reaction – an affective totality inherently resistant to representation – circumventing the need to unpack the variety of affective responses that such a description might otherwise have required. His reference to the 'photo of Madrid, (…) where a group of people in bumblebee costumes were waving at the photographer' (Coupland, 2009a: 117) provides an effective description both of the likely response from a transnational community of practice, and of the performativity of major events after 9/11, which, according to Grusin, only now exist 'insofar as they mobilize and are mobilized by a network of complementary and overlapping media forms and practices.' (Grusin, 2010: 90)

In his portrayal of both the 'earth sandwich' and the news 'event' of the bee sting as products of intensive mediation, then, Coupland invites us to consider the role of narrative and mediacy in the contemporary world – a theme which pervades Generation A. In the next chapter, I will extend this analysis to the later chapters of the novel, focusing on his representations of oral culture after digital media.

34

CHAPTER 6

Tôkyô Dekameron: Diegesis and Distributed Cognition

As presented, the media ecology of Generation A is dominated the communicative logic and technical affordances subsumed under that which Ong defines as 'secondary orality'. Standing distinct from the 'primary orality' of pre-literature culture, this is a resurgent, post-literate orality, as 'sustained by (…) electronic devices that depend for their existence and functioning on writing and print.' (Ong, 2002 [1982]: 10-11) Samantha's fictional 'earth sandwich' may have relied on photography, but the completion of its realworld antecedent was recorded in the secondary orality of the YouTube video. In the context of the 'secondary orality' of Coupland's five remediated narrators, it is even more surprising when – roughly halfway through – the novel's tone and structure shifts abruptly. From the narrators' early experience of being stung by the (supposedly) extinct bees, through their time in solitary confinement, and their reactions to the media storm that accompanies their release, Generation A's narrative emphasises immediacy; pursuing the story from a rotating first-person perspective.

At Generation A's approximate midpoint, the five protagonists are lifted from their everyday lives and taken to Haida Gwaii, a remote island off the coast of Canada. Here, they are made to tell each other stories by a man named Serge, for reasons that – initially, at least – remain opaque. In this extract, a nervous Samantha expresses her initial reluctance to participate:

'''Serge said, “Your turn, Samantha.” Bloody hell. “Serge, I'm not creative that way.” “If you relax, you might surprise yourself, Samantha. The brain uses stories to organize its perceptions of the world. Every moment of your life it's doing things for you that you can barely imagine.” I went silent from nerves. Serge smiled and said, “Is your PDA working? Go online and look up The Decameron.” “Spell that for me.” He did. I read aloud: “The Decameron is a collection of short stories written from 1350 to 1353 by an Italian writer, Giovanni Boccaccio. The collection begins with a description of the Black Death. Then we meet a group of seven young men and women who flee from plague-ridden Florence to a

35

villa in the countryside. To pass the time, each member of the party tells stories about lust, the nobility and the clergy. “The Decameron was made into an Italian movie in 1972. A Japanese version, Tôkyô Dekameron, made in 1996, featured lesbian torture chambers.” We sat there digesting this piece of information. Diana dropped a log on the fire, saying, “Well, I guess we'd better update our notions of lust, the nobility and the clergy. Zack is totally on the right track. Let's tell stories about stalking, superheros and cults.” The room became warmer and more intimate. I felt like a child again.' (Coupland, 2009a: 165)

A cursory web search proves that, as with the previous chapter's 'earth sandwich', Tôkyô Dekameron is an all-too-real part of today's media environment. In many ways, Samantha's actions are emblematic of the functioning of this new literature, where, 'if some item baffles you, rush on or rejoice in the confusion; or, if you are an obsessive, Google on it.' (Broderick, 2009: 88) With a new understanding of the increasingly liquid character of reality, the gestalt eyes of Wikipedia and the algorithmic triangulations of Google are recognised to be capable of producing authoritative knowledge.

Outside of Generation A, Google – read as a glyph for the internet, that 'inexhaustible anthology of every possible thing recorded at every conceivable location in any given time' (Oxman, 2010) – is having a profound impact on the form of fiction. Gibson, in particular, has referenced the emerging 'Google aura' of his contemporary novels; as in this extract from a 2007 interview with the New York Times:

“It’s curious. When I published ‘Pattern Recognition’ ” — his previous book, which was also set in the recent past and achieved mainstream success — “within a few months there was someone who started a Web site. People were compiling Googled references to every term and every place in the book. It has photographs of just about every locale in the book — a massive site that was compiled by volunteer effort.' (Garreau, 2007)

As with the ergodic structure of Danielewski's House of Leaves, the implied hypertextuality of this 'Google aura' falls far short of the cybercultural promise of 1990s electronic literature. Though Gonzalez argues that '[e]very text is no longer just a text, but a hypertext projecting its reader beyond conventional fictional limits' (Gonzalez, 2008: 124), the Google queries and Wikipedia pages must still be recognised as external to the text, even as they inform our reading. By representing the remediated narrator's distributed cognition in a manner recognisable to the reader, Coupland mobilises his novel's status as a 'technotext', producing 'reflexive loops between [his] imaginative world and the material apparatus' (Hayles, 2002: 25) of the 36

distributed reader.

This popular discourse about the distribution of cognition and attention mimics the anxieties about the future of the book noted earlier by Fitzpatrick; re-inscribing the old/new binary as necessarily good/bad, while mimicking Biblical notions of humanity's 'fall from grace'. In this discourse, technology is portrayed as a wellspring of alienation, reducing its users to automatons; fundamentally dehumanized. Here, however, Coupland's McLuhanite tendencies preclude a purely pessimistic reading of the social and societal effects of technology. Instead, in Generation A, he materialises all the charges laid against digital media and new technologies in the form of Solon, a synthetic drug 'designed to alter a person's sense of time' (Coupland, 2009: 255), but which, as a side effect, also:

'gave its users a sense of calm individualism almost identical to that achieved while reading a novel. (…) [Here,] science had created an antidote to the daily barrage of electronic information so common to the era! (…) It removed from its users the burden of over-thinking the future, which is, of course, a well-known cause of anxiety. Most magically of all, the drug's users stopped feeling lonely.' (Coupland, 2009: 255-256)

Naturally, Solon proves highly addictive, with 'quitting [proving] impossible, physically and emotionally (…) [as the] drug scarred users' brains, rendering them permanently in need of more' (Coupland, 2009: 257). Against this background, the reader slowly comes to realise that:

'[al]though they live in different culture, [Coupland's protagonists] are linked by a recurring theme: isolation. The world has broken up into sealed-off individual stories; [where] unconnected individuals seek refuge in the food, drink and addictive drugs that a consumerist society offers.' (Adiga, 2009)

In the extract from Samantha, the reader can detect how the prospect of group storytelling triggers a shift in her affective reactions to the situation and her peers: 'The room became warmer and more intimate. I felt like a child again.' (Coupland, 2009: 165)

Here, we stand witness to the utopian promise of a secondary orality which, like McLuhan's 'global village', is capable of 'generat[ing] a strong group sense, [as] listening to spoken words forms hearers into a group, a true audience, just as reading written or printed texts [or taking Solon] turns individuals in on themselves.' (Ong, 2002 [1982]: 133) Where secondary orality differs is in its reach and its relationship to 37

the written word. Ong recognises that 'secondary orality generates a sense for groups immeasurably larger than those of primary oral culture' (Ong, 2002 [1982: 133]), while Coupland's protagonists 'update [their] notions of lust, the nobility and the clergy (…) tell[ing] stories about stalking, superheros and cults.' (Coupland, 2009: 165) Their stories are informed by popular culture; remediating the detritus of mass media, lifting elements from the established narratives of The Simpsons, TV news, and World of Warcraft. As Serge explains:

'Stories come from a part of you that only gets visited rarely – sometimes never at all. I think that most people spend so much time trying to convince themselves that their lives are stories that the actual story-creating part of their brains hardens and dies. People forget that there are other ways of ordering the world.' (Coupland, 2009: 169)

Regardless of their origins in popular culture, Coupland portrays the practice of oral narrative with affection, casting it as ultimately capable of 'fixing' the absence at the heart of technological modernity. Through a cumulative process of storytelling, the truth is discovered; the villain unmasked.

38

CHAPTER 7

'Grind the Molten Bucket': Paratextuality and Digital Noise

Further to the sectional intertitles that signify shifts in time and setting, JPod includes 100 pages which – lacking page numbers – exist outside the core narrative. At some level, these are part of the novel's paratext; described by Genette as the productions which surround and extend the text - 'such as an author's name, a title, a preface, illustrations.' (Genette, 1997: 1) In his review of the novel for Slate, Agger picks up on this atypical paratext; describing how JPod 'abounds with the odds and ends of contemporary culture.' (Agger, 2006) With the bulk of its narrative taking place on the fringes of a Vancouver-based games design company, the paratext initially appears as a remediation of games culture, beginning the novel with an instruction to '[c]lick here' (Coupland, 2006: 13). This is a strand picked up on later in the novel, where two pages in the middle of the book bear the phrases '… pause' and '… waiting to respawn' (Coupland, 2006: 545546), with the novel concluding by asking the reader if they want to '[p]lay again? Y/N' (Coupland, 2006: 555).

On its own, this remediation of video game media could be seen as a relatively simple act of remediation, with the form of the novel mimicking the specifics of its subject. This reading, however, would have to ignore the three spam emails, reproduced in full; seven consecutive pages bearing the Chinese characters for 'Shopping', 'Boredom', 'Pornography', 'Cosmetic surgery', 'Tourism', 'Internet browsing' and 'TV' (Coupland, 2006: 326-332); lists of three-letter acronyms and television networks; the ingredients from a pack of 'Bite-Size Tortilla Snacks' (Coupland, 2006: 170); the copy from an advert for Star Wars action figures (Coupland, 2006: 228); and several more pages of what can only be described as 'digital noise'. The title of this chapter is taken from one of these pages of paratext; blank but for the words 'Grind the molten bucket' in small italics – an instruction Agger recognises from the 'Foundry' level of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (1999) for the Sony PlayStation.

Where in conventional texts, the paratext would provide 'a threshold (…) that offers the world at large the possibility of either stepping inside or turning back' (Gentette, 1997: 1-2), JPod's paratextual

39

elements share more with 'The Happening World' segments from Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar, in providing a cacophony of information about the world and setting. Instead of a traditional, pre-digital ontology built on the absence/presence binary, JPod is a fundamentally informational novel, governed by the logics of signal and static. As such, the digital and pop cultural detritus of the paratext not only reflects the preoccupations of the novel's protagonists, but stands as background noise to the signal of Coupland's primary narrative.

Although the bulk of this 'digital noise' comes before the intertitles that mark significant shifts in setting or time, the relationship between the paratext and the narrative is ultimately less clear-cut than the 'threshold' definition offered by Genette. Instead, we witness an interpenetration of noise and narrative, with the precise content and form of the 'noise' varying to echo or resonate with the content of the narrative. Furthermore, there are remediations of the protagonists' displacement activities – attempts to identify the only prime number in a list that occupies multiple pages of the novel; the characters written up as items on eBay; and letters to corporate spokesclown Ronald McDonald – which, though they would have been reproduced as external texts in, say, Tristram Shandy or the recent novels of William Gibson, which here straddle narrative and paratext, seemingly at random.

If, as I have suggested, JPod's paratext comprises the detritus of our 'happening world,' it could be argued that – much like If on a winter's night a traveler – this new type of remediated literature embraces the pathologies of information overload as background colour; seeking to to simulate the deluge of glitches, unsolicited email, and digital trivialities which springs from new media in a seemingly unending torrent of noise. To see it remediated in the interstices of the novel is a sure symptom of the changing status and modalities of contemporary fiction.

40

CHAPTER 8

Conclusion: Remediation and the Contemporary Novel

At the end of Gibson's Pattern Recognition, the 'garage Kubrick' behind the enigmatic footage is revealed as Nora Volkova, 'a young Russian artist (…) injured by a T-shaped fragment of an American-made bomb that has lodged in her brain' (Skeates, 2004: 137). For Nora, the act of video-editing provides a palliative for her physical trauma; while for Cayce, Nora is cast as:

'the splendid source, the headwaters of the digital Nile she and her friends had sought. It is here, in the languid yet precise moves of a woman's pale hand. In the faint click of image-capture. In the eyes only truly present when focused on this screen. Only the wound, speaking wordlessly in the dark.' (Gibson, 2003: 305)

Consider the parallels between the wounded Nora and Uncle Toby from The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. In both examples, technologies of representation enable the characters to compensate for trauma. In Pattern Recognition, Nora's distillation of 'the Footage' from surveillance video returned her from the brink of death, while in Tristram Shandy, Toby's battle re-enactments trigger a measurable improvement in his bodily health. With her video editing suite as a technological prosthesis, Nora can also be read as a cyborg – a technical assemblage of frail human body, the technologies of visual media, and a traumatised subjectivity.

Here, Grusin's Premediation seems to be suggesting that – after 9/11 – we have all been remade in the image of Nora and Tristram's Uncle Toby. Traumatised by the complexity and chaos of information overload, we rely on our artificial ecology of media-technics in order to make sense of the world. From Coupland's Generation A, consider Zack, lifting entire paragraphs of his narration from the internet; or the French student Julien, giving a 'Shameless and Cheesy Wikipedia Dump' (Coupland, 2009a: 83) when confronted with the limits of his own knowledge. More than ever, we are the 'human-technology symbionts' (Clark, 2003: 3) described by Clark. In this context, faced with the challenge of 'mimetically representing the ceaseless transformations of the future-present' (Hollinger, 2006: 455), one answer is that the dual logics of 41

remediation provide the only representational strategy capable of communicating the plural and hybrid subjectivities of the contemporary media-technical cyborg.

Then again, is this anything necessarily new? The earlier examination of mechanical technicity in Tristram Shandy would suggest proceeding with caution. Certainly, Clark argues that humans have long been defined by ‘their ability to enter into deep and complex relationships with nonbiological constructs, props, and aids’ (Clark, 2003: 5). Indeed, Foucault applies his theory of 'technologies of the self' to a variety of technical interventions, focusing specifically on writing practices in 'Greco-Roman philosophy in the first two centuries A.D. of the early Roman Empire and (…) [in] Christian spirituality (…) in the fourth and fifth centuries' (Foucault, 1990 [1988]: 19). For Evans, who cites a variety of medieval memory systems as proof of our cyborg past, the recognition and resurfacing of such a cyborg history – however partial – is 'one way of countering some of the more outlandish claims that have been made about the posthuman as an apocalyptic break with what has gone before.' (Evans, 2010: 70)

If there has been a qualitative break in subjectivity, says Evans, it runs parallel to a broader ontological shift whereby 'the previous model of the human as characterized by absence/presence is being replaced by that of a pattern/randomness dialectic.' (Evans, 2010: 69) Evans' argument is reinforced by Grusin's comments on the liquid intimacies of mobile networked media – for if, '[i]n our media relations we establish (…) cybernetic loops that distribute our affect across various media forms, technologies, and practices' (Grusin, 2010: 99), an embodied presence is no longer necessary in order to effect action.

Thus, if the contemporary novel is caught up in processes of remediation, it is to better represent the various forms of media that 'help to construct and maintain assemblages of human, technologies, and nature, at the same time [as] they emerge from and are part of the assemblages they maintain and construct' (Grusin, 2010: 90). A cyborg theory of literature is not just desirable, but necessary. With the contemporary novel ever-more-willing to engage with the technological dimensions of the world it seeks to represent, only by taking fiction as a constituent part of the wider media ecology can one hope to appraise such remediations of the 'cyberneticized, globalized, liberal capitalism in financial collapse' (Sterling, 2009: 24) in which we find ourselves. Also, in the singular moment moment of the absolute present, the novel's material form is shifting in ways which mirror the changes in the world it seeks to communicate, be it through the 'digital noise' of Coupland's paratext; the ergodic typesetting of Danielewski; or the wholesale reproduction of other 42

textual artefacts in the body of the novel. In these post-millennial writings of Danielewski, Coupland, and others, we begin to see the seeds of a novel form that is as much a hybrid as the technologically-mediated subjects it seeks to represent.

For if writing is a technology, the book is a machine; the reader a cyborg.

43

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aarseth, E., 1997. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature (Baltimore, MA: John Hopkins University Press) Adiga, A., 2009. 'Review: Generation A,' The Financial Times, 30/09/2009, <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/aba92f00-a965-11de-9b7f-00144feabdc0.html> [Accessed 23/10/2010] Agger, M., 2006. 'A Million Little Insights: The Couplandization of Douglas Coupland,' Slate, 31/05/2006, <http://www.slate.com/id/2142639/> [Accessed 23/01/2010] Anderson, S., 2o09. 'When Lit Blew Into Bits,' New York Entertainment, 06/12/2009, <http://nymag.com/arts/all/aughts/62514/> [Accessed 23/01/2010] Atteberry, B., 2003. 'The magazine era: 1926-1960,' in James, E. and F. Mendelson (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) Baudrillard, J., 1994 [1981]. Simulacra and Simulation (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press) Benjamin, W., 2008 [1935]. 'The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility,' in Jennings, M. W., Doherty, B. and T. Y. Levin (eds.), The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility and Other Writings on Media (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press), pp. 19-55. Bloomsbury, 2001. Encarta Concise English Dictionary (London: Bloomsbury Publishing) Bolter, J. D., 2001. Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext and the Remediation of Print (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers) Bolter, J. D. and R. Grusin, 2000. Remediation: Understanding New Media (London: MIT Press) Broderick, D., 2009. Unleashing the Strange: Twenty-First Century Science Fiction Literature (Rockville, MD: Borgo Press) Broderick, D., 2003. 'New wave and backwash: 1960-1980,' in James, E. and F. Mendelson (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) Brunner, J., 1968. Stand on Zanzibar (London: Gollancz) Bukatman, S., 2003 [1993]. 'Gibson's Typewriter,' in Matters of Gravity: Special Effects and Supermen in the 20th Century (Durham, NC: Duke University Press) 44

Calvino, I., 1981 [1979]. If on a winter's night a traveler, trans. W. Weaver (London: Random House) Clark, A., 2003. Natural-born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies and the Future of Human Intelligence (Oxford: Oxford University Press) Clute, J., 2003. 'Science fiction from 1980 to the present,' in James E. and F. Mendelson (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., I., 2008. The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press) Coupland, D., 2009a. Generation A (London: Random House) Coupland, D., 2009b. 'News: Generation A,' Coupland.com, 04/04/2009, <http://www.coupland.com/2009/04/04/news-generation-a/> [Accessed 30/08/2010] Coupland, D., 2006. JPod (London: Bloomsbury) Coupland, D., 1991. Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture (New York, NY: St Martin's Press) Danielewski, M. Z., 2000. House of Leaves (London: Doubleday) Evans, R., 2010. 'Our cyborg past: Medieval artificial memory as Face to Face: J.G. Ballard, 1989. Television programme, BBC, London, 07/11/1989, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/writers/12217.shtml> [accessed 23/08/2010] Fanning, C., 2009. 'Sterne and Print Culture,' in T. Keymer (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Laurence Sterne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) Fitzpatrick, K., 2006. The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press) Foucault, M., 1990 [1988]. 'Technologies of the Self', in Martin, L., Gutman, H. and P. H. Hutton (eds.), Technologies of the Self (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press) Frank, Z., 2006. 'The Show with Ze Frank,' 16/05/2006, <http://www.zefrank.com/theshow/archives/2006/05/051606.html> [Accessed 30/08/2010] Fuller, M., 2005. Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture (Cambridge, MA: The

45

MIT Press) Garreau, J., 2007. 'Through the Looking Glass: The Post-9/11 Era Has Caught Up With William Gibson's Vision,' The Washington Post, <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2007/09/05/AR2007090502582_pf.html> [Accessed 06/09/2007] Genette, G., 1997. Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (Cambridge: University of Cambridge) Gibson, W., 2007. Spook Country (London: Penguin Books) Gibson, W., 2003. Pattern Recognition (London: Penguin Books) Gibson, W., 1984. Neuromancer (New York, NY: Ace Science Fiction) Gonzalez, M., 2008. 'The Aesthetics of Post-Realism and the Obscenification of Everyday Life: The Novel in the Age of Technology,' Journal of Narrative Theory, Vol. 38 (1), pp. 111-133. Grusin, R., 2010. Premediation: Affect and Mediality after 9/11 (London: Palgrave Macmillan) Hansen, M., 2004. 'The Digital Topography of Mark Z. Danielewski's “House of Leaves”,' Contemporary Literature, Vol. 45 (4), pp. 597-636. Hayles, N. K., 2005. My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press) Hayles, N. K., 2006. 'Traumas of Code,' Critical Inquiry, Vol. 33 (1), pp. 136-157. Hayles, N. K., 2002a. 'Saving the Subject: Remediation in House of Leaves,' American Literature, Vol. 74 (4), pp. 779-806. Hayles, N. K., 2002b. Writing Machines (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press) Heuser, S., 2003. Virtual Geographies: Cyberpunk at the Intersection of the Postmodern and Science Fiction (Amsterdam: Rodopi) Hollinger, V., 2006. 'Stories about the Future: From Patterns of Expectation to Pattern Recognition,' Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 33 (3), pp. 452-472. Itzkoff, D., 2006. 'Insert: headline/jpod-coupland.rvw', The New York Times, 21/05/2006, <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/21/books/review/21itzkoff.html?_r=1> [Accessed 23/01/2010]

46

Jenkins, H., 2006. Convergence Culture (New York, NY: New York University Press) Johnston, J., 1998. Information Multiplicity: American Fiction in the Age of Media Saturation (Baltimore, MA: John Hopkins University Press) Latour, B., 1993 [1991]. We Have Never Been Modern, trans. C. Porter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press) Mackay, H. and T. O'Sullivan, 1999. The Media Reader: Continuity and Transformation (London: Sage) McHale, B., 1987. Postmodern Fiction (London: Routledge) McLuhan, M. and Q. Fiore, 1968. War and Peace in the Global Village (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill) McLuhan, M., 1964. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (London: Routledge) McLuhan, M., 1962. The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (Toronto: University of Toronto Press) Merriam-Webster, 1995. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature (Springfield, MA: MerriamWebster) Moretti, F., 1994. 'Modern European Literature: A Geographical Sketch,' New Left Review, July-August 1994, Vol. I/206, pp. 86-109. Moretti, F., 2003. 'Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History – 1,' New Left Review, November-December 2003, Vol. 24, pp. 67-93. Moretti, F., 2004. 'Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History – 3,' New Left Review, JulyAugust 2004, Vol. 28, pp. 43-63. Mottolese, W. C., 2007. 'Tristram Cyborg and Toby Toolmaker: Body, Tools and Hobbyhorse in Tristram Shandy,' Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Vol. 47 (3), pp. 679-701. Murphy, P. D., 1987. 'Dialogics and Didacticism: John Brunner's Narrative Blending,' Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 14 (1), pp. 21-33. Ong, W. J., 2002 [1982]. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (New York, NY: Routledge) Oxman, N., 2010. 'Once I was lost, but now I am found, or how to navigate in the chatroom of memory,' Edge: The World Question Centre, <http://www.edge.org/q2010/q10_4.html> [Accessed 23/01/2010]

47

Poole, S., 2003. 'Tomorrow's man,' The Guardian, 03/05/2003, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2003/may/03/sciencefictionfantasyandhorror.williamgibson> [accessed 30/08/2010] Sangild, T., 2004. 'Glitch – The Beauty of Malfunction,' in Bad Music: The Music We Love to Hate (London: Routledge), pp. 257-274. Shaviro, S., 2010. 'Post-Cinematic Affect: On Grace Jones, Boarding Gate and Southland Tales,' Film Philosophy, Vol. 14 (1), pp. 1-102. Skeates, R., 2004. 'A Melancholy Future Poetic,' City, Vol. 8 (1), pp. 135-140. Sterling, B., 2009. 'Design Fiction,' Interactions, Vol. 16 (3) Sterne, L., 1980 [1759-1767]. Tristram Shandy: An Authoritative Text (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company Stepinska, A., 2009. '9/11 and the Transformation of Globalized Media Events,' in Couldry, N., Hepp, A. and F. Krotz (eds.), Media Events in a Global Age (London: Routledge) Sutherland, J., 2007. 'Node Idea,' The Guardian, 31/07/2007, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2007/aug/31/highereducation.books> [Accessed 23/01/2010] Tate, A., 2007. Douglas Coupland (Manchester: Manchester University Press) Veel, K., 2009. Narrative Negotiations: Information Structures in Literary Fiction (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht)

48

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful