In “The Aesthetic of Bookishness in Twenty-First-Century Literature,” Jessica Pressman explains the new artistic and experimental ways books have come about in the 21st century due to the threat that digital technologies pose to books. She better explains this theory by saying “These novels exploit the power of the print page in ways that draw attention to the book as a multimedia format…” (465).
The first important aspect I would like to discuss is on page 466. Pressman explains the idea of bookishness. She explains it as being a new and innovative way to interact with a book in the new, digital age. Pressman says that “..through experimentation with the media-specific properties of print illuminated by the light of the digital. The resulting experimentations expose the book to be not only capable of withstanding the cultural transformations wrought by digital technologies but also a medium in need of the threat posed by the information revolution in order to remain innovative” (466). This is important to her overall argument because this is mainly what she is arguing; she is arguing that books must now fight for their reader’s attention in this new, digital age. This is also important to remember for the purpose of our class as we read through the House of Leaves, since the book is considered “innovative” in Pressman’s terms.
The second important aspect I would like to discuss is on page 467. Pressman explains that her focus is not on solely the book for the purposes of reading, but it is on how society has culturally and technologically shifted away from the book and how that affects literature. Pressman believes that the book “…will not become obsolete with new reading platforms, but rather, it will change and develop new incarnations and readerships; it will continue to serve certain kinds of literacy needs and literary desires…” (467). This is important to her overall argument because she is not saying that the regular book will be no more; she is saying that the new-aged, innovative books will just serve a different reading community. This is important for our class to remember because these new-age books serve a specific purpose, and we have to be able to figure out what that purpose is.
The last important aspect I found is on page 475. Pressman discusses the shark from the The Raw Shark Texst and “Mycroft Ward.” She presents “Mycroft Ward” as an evil because she believes that “…megacorporations that seek global imperialism through digital networks, and, more specifically with a word processing program that has achieved near ubiquity and, in so doing, has displaced the bookish form of writing in ink and paper” (475). This is important to her overall argument because she strongly believes that Microsoft Word is damaging bookish form by being a digital technology. This is important in our class because as we read House of Leaves, we need to keep Pressman’s argument in the back of our minds and think of the effect it is having in the literature world. We also need to think about the fact that this book is in competition with the digital world as well.
Although I enjoyed this reading, there were a couple of statements I did not understand. The first is on page 472 where Pressman gives two possibilities. She states that the belief in disembodied information that “…fosters discourse network 2000, produces the following possibilities: (1) that information lives invisibly and spreads virally, and (2) that material bodies (of people, books, et cetera) will be emptied of content and thus relevance” (472). I am not sure what she means by either of these statements. Is she comparing bookishness to digital technologies? Or is she just making a claim for the sake of The Raw Shark Texts?
Another aspect I found confusing is when Pressman compares The Raw Shark Texts to the actual “Rorschach test” on page 478. She states that the comparison and “The reference to the Rorschach test is a reflexive reminder that the reader makes meaning from inkblots presented in the pages of Hall’s book. This focus on ink-based, textual interpretation is made explicit and literal when the shark appears as a few blots of ink on the page…” (478). I do not understand how this comparison contributes to her overall argument? I find the comparison very confusing to understand.
My question to the class is what do you believe House of Leaves is trying to accomplish by being a new-aged, innovative book? Or better yet, what do you believe the novel is trying to say to its audience?