Love and Liberty
I thought it was interesting that Hailey took the liberty of branching from their pattern and used the word Liberty twice as much as Sam (10 times vs. 5 times).
Also, you can see that in Sam’s graph, Liberty seems to sort of underline or support Love, which is something that Hailey’s narrative specifically warns against on page 20.
There are two main discussions about Love and Liberty, and although they happen on the same tangible page (p.20/p.340), the graph depicts them taking place on opposite ends of the graph. This speaks to the complicated way the book was printed, and how confusing that is to machine-reading.
Sam’s World / Earth
Again, something that Hailey’s narrative warned about (p. , the outline of ‘World’ seems to form a similar though more elevated version of the ‘Earth’ below. This could serve to symbolize the way that they essentially created a little made-up world for themselves, but it was hard to make that marriage work in reality.
Here is a graph of the Lexos site to fulfill the requirement of this lab, although to be honest I did not really use it at all. The graph is made of the most common words in both dialogues.
Finally, here are some random graphs that were symmetrical and pretty. Not sure what they mean.
The main challenge I faced in creating using these tools was just figuring out what to look for. I’d think of a pattern in the book itself, and try to figure out if there was a pattern associated with it, only to find Voyant return some graph that seemed completely illogical. I didn’t realize until about halfway through my research that we could change the number of items along the X axis. Because the book is broken up into 5 Reels (if you consider the black dots to be signifiers to change the reel, as they are in old movies), I tried looking at a couple of the graphs in different modes. Sometimes this was helpful, other times not so much.
I think learning more about Lexos could help close reading from an analytical standpoint. You could generate lots of graphs and statistics that provide insight into word usage itself, but you still need people to interpret the data that it presents. As Mark Twain famously said, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” These machines are helpful in creating data and statistics, but the real value of close reading comes from humans making meaning from the words themselves, not merely counting and tracking them across time.
Particularly in a book like Only Revolutions, these tools help us track the frequency of when words are used. It helps create visual elements that express the ideas we may only vaguely conceptualize if our minds were left to read the words and try to organize all the complex patterns.
Close reading allows us to draw connections in meaning that the machines cannot. We can trace moods and tones, feelings the characters express. We can trace when words rhyme and when something happens on both ends of a page, whereas the plaintexts we used didn’t include any page numbers.
These tools really helped me get a grasp on the incredible amount of detail that Danielewski put into crafting Only Revolutions. It is so meticulously put together that clearly he meant for it to be read by both man and machine working together. Its complexity is the most annoying part, and also its most alluring. Through overcoming its complexity, we are able to appreciate its power and beauty.
People have critiqued certain books as being “made for TV,” essentially claiming that they are written in order to gain popularity and be easily transferable into a movie that will make more money, perpetuating “the machine” and regurgitating entertainment for the masses.
Danielewski is the antithesis of this. He constructs books like a careful architect, and his creations are nearly impossible to be made into a movie. With Only Revolutions, I admit to being totally blown away by its complexity and beauty, the same way one may marvel at a cathedral of words. At the same time, I think it’s so densely packed together that sometimes he sacrificed content for form. But of course these losses are simply part of the restrictions he puts on himself.