Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I have been reading Hamlet on the Holodeck: the future of narrative in cyberspace  by Janet Murray and find myself deeply engaged with the book, reading it as if I were eating a delicious 10 course meal and can't wait to get to the next course--or chapter in this case.  Murray looks at the kinds of imaginative worlds that now exist in cyberpace from the perspective of someone with a literature background, and I really appreciate the depth that perspective brings to the understanding of narrative.  She's also well-versed in science-fiction narrative in general, including the Star Trek series, and since I know every Star Trek episode from almost every incarnation of the series, I'm right there with her.  

It's interesting to me that I find myself more engaged with this book than a recent book I assigned students to read for our memoir class.  The book they read is a good read:  it's funny and poignant and offers comic insights into the life of a young woman in America and her exploits and travels.  But I find as I age I want even more from a book.  I remember a line from a poem by Brenda Hillman that was at least partly about forced entertainment (i.e., we WILL all go as a family on vacation to Disneyland and we WILL enjoy every minute of it):  "Fun," she wrote, "is sad."  In order to enjoy myself I seem to need to be challenging myself in new ways and learning something new.  Learning, for me, is fun.  Being challenged by a book or a game or some new knowledge is, for me, fun.  Being entertained, especially entertainment that is being done to me, rather than something I'm participating in, is not fun.  This is why I do not stay up late with my husband to watch the Jay Leno show.  I would rather retreat to the world of Azeroth where I can kill orcs and save polluted kingdoms, and discover new people and new lands.  

This is perhaps also why I enjoy political satire over any kind of writing or speech that is merely funny.  I can listen to John Stewart, for example, without getting bored or feel that I'm wasting my time.  

It's harder, as I get older, to find writings that really really engage me, that break some frozen sea inside of me, that teach me something new.  This is also why, I think, I'm so interested in the possibilities of narrative and imagination in video games and cyberspace.  It's just beginning to be explored and it feels as exiting to me as modernist poetry did at one time.  


  1. A complete and total aside, but did you ever notice that the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation's line-up of characters is suspiciously similar to that of the original season of ER? I have. Star Trek came out first, but Michael Crichton wrote ER first...

  2. i am really with you on this engagement thing. (and if it tells you anything about what i'm currently engaged with - i was VERY disappointed that class was canceled tonight. Now that's just not right, any student can tell you that, i should be celebrating, making snow angels, drinking hot chocolate).

    But there is something about a new challenge that keeps the blood pumping.

    Maybe i'll go look for a new cocoa recipe...

  3. Though, as a person who lives on Mt. Washington, I was very grateful. My boyfriend's car broke down in Cranberry and I had to go out after all and it was a little bit terrifying.