Part 1: Pattern
The pattern I chose was the Ludovician because there are two elements I can talk about: the shark as a symbol of mediation and the structure of the shark in the book and flipbook. When I say structure, I mean the appearance but the shark’s appearance is changing so I thought structure sounded like a more fluid term. The reason it should be a fluid term is because the shark swims through the book antagonizing Eric dining on his thoughts and memories.
- The Ludovician is a great white of conceptual sharks and it will keep attacking you until there is no you left. If the shark swims through the book, another way to put it is streams of information, it is dangerous because it can instantly get wherever it needs to go because the information provides the medium for which to travel.
- Page 64: “The Ludovician is a predator… it feeds on human memories and the intrinsic sense of self… A Ludovician might select an individual human being…and pursue and feed on that individual…until that victim’s memory and identity have been completely consumed.”
- As long as Scout, Eric, and Ian are inside the bookshelves the Ludovician can’t get to them. Eric feels safe reading the letters from the first Eric Sanderson. Print is protecting them from the media.
- Page 219: “The books. All these books mean it can’t come in here, it can’t find its way through to us.”
- Page 63-83: There are a bunch of letters from the first Eric Sanderson that Eric reads. He feels protected from the shark when he reads. He has to shield his true self from the shark by blocking streams of information leading back to him.
- The flipbook of the Ludovician shows the structure of the shark.
- Page 328- 373 is the part of the flipbook where the shark is shown with collages of words from the novel.
Part 2: Analysis
This novel definitely showcases a strong opinion on the strength of printed books and how digital technologies are threatening them. The protagonist Eric fights for his life through countless battles with a conceptual shark, the Ludovician. It eats people’s memories and their sense of self. In order to recall his old girlfriend and his former life, he must travel through an electronic database.
Firstly, the structure of the shark appears on a few different instances throughout the book. It is made up of words and symbols from the text itself. The words change from picture to picture upholding the idea that the shark’s flesh is made up of the identities and memories it devours. I think they are memories from the first Eric Sanderson. If this is true, then this mirrors Eric’s recurring self-transformations. This got me thinking about the materiality of the shark in the text and the materiality of the page and our class discussion of representations and reality. Both are real and yet both were created by Steven Hall. Someone can describe a lake and if I imagine it in my head, I don’t think it is any less real than a lake with water and fish. That goes for what makes people who they are. You can construct your own identity and morph it into anything you want it to be. Our identities are constructed from memories, the books we’ve read, and fragmented bits and pieces of everything we are surrounded with.
If the shark symbolizes mediation, then media influences people to keep transforming themselves. A song, piece of art, movie, or anything to do with media can consume someone and influence how they see the world and how they act. The shark is consuming Eric like media consumes us. We also consume media. This is perhaps what the author meant when she said that view becomes the reflection and the reflection the view. Information travels to and from the page to your head. If there is a stream in which the information is traveling through the act of reading, that is where the shark and the other conceptual creatures in the novel swim in. What someone sees is going to attach themselves onto their brain and that person can remember it and keep that memory. The flipbook section is another example of representation becoming reality in this novel because you can not have a flip book on a kindle. You have to physically turn the pages to see the quick movements of the shark swimming through the pages.
Pressman sees this novel’s bookishness as a way to keep the good fight for fiction going. Hall places a lot of importance on the printed book with how protective printed books were to Eric throughout the novel. Eric could find himself in the letters and he found what the doctor through the tunnel of books, so the opinion of the book says that you can find yourself and whatever you are looking for with print books. The shark represents mediation and there is no safe way to interact with it because there could be sharks lurking in the conceptual waters of the digital world.
Part 3: Essay Question
- A Visit from the Goon Squad moves from perspectives, time periods, and leaves the narrative during pages 176-251. Why has Egan organized the stories out of consecutive order?