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Hyperlinks And Human Links: Reading Geoff Ryman’s "253 Or Tube Theatre: A Novel For The Internet About London Underground In Seven Cars And A Crash" Online.

1666 words - 7 pages

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Hyperlinks and Human Links: Reading Geoff Ryman's 253 or tube theatre: a novel for the Internet about London Underground in seven cars and a crash online.Geoff Ryman's internet novel, 253, is a series of 'Godlike' insights into contemporary urban human existence and carries dark undertones of death. The face that it is written "in seven cars and a crash" is an apt description that places the events of the novel within its form, and vice-versa. The medium used to publish this novel is highly significant to the meaning conveyed in a variety of ways: the structure of the story and those parts of it that aren't actually part of the story, but still part of the novel (extra-narrative elements), the use of hyperlinks as a way of 'turning the pages' of the novel and the use of hyperlinks as a way of weaving together a literary understanding of it. Each of these aspects of the novel will be discussed with reference to materiality and meaning.The structure of 253 is pivotal in understanding what the novel is about. Like any work that refers to itself in physical form in its title, the body of the work, or in extra-narrative, from composer John Cage's 4'33'' to the Little Golden Book for children, The Monster at the end of this Book: Starring lovable, furry old Grover, where the form becomes tangibly relevant to the meaning of the work, 253 utilises the reader's consciousness of him or herself as the audience of the work in attributing meaning to the work itself. The page "253? Why 253?" explains the structure of the novel, and each page, which describes the 'order' in what might otherwise be seen as a random collection of short character descriptions. This is a reflection of how we as humans assign order to everyday life through subconscious categorisation and listing and numbering. And that, in turn, is one of the themes within in the novel: meaning is assigned to different situations or objects in different ways by different people. The constrained structure of the writing is also relevant to the story - the 'rules' Ryman imposed on himself in writing the novel shape and lead the story in the direction the train is taking. In addition to the rules, this page also informs the reader that the story takes place on the eleventh of January, 1995, the same date that Ryman discovered his best friend was dying of AIDS in real life. This adds a darker dimension to each character description, and to the "End of the Line" pages. Not only is the story about human existence, it's about dying: some people dying while others live.Another extra-narrative element of the novel that directs the reader's understanding of it is the inclusion of the advertisements in each car of the train. The humorous fictional advertisements have been included the way illustrations might be added to a book for older children. They are unnecessary to the novel, but add an extra dimension of interest and focus, surprising the reader or offering yet another...

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