VALERIE ALEXANDER

  • The image vs. the word

    Dennis Cooper, a writer I like very much, just unleashed a rather audacious project: a new novel constructed entirely out of GIFs. "Zac's Haunted House" is, well, haunting without a doubt and narratively cohesive too, given the lack of text. But I can't consider it a novel.

    It's kind of early David Lynch meets Tumblr. A woman expelling blood into an open book; a fogged house with windows twinkling in an ominous black and gray landscape; Old Hollywood melodrama; Arya Stark reminding us that "Anyone can be killed;" it's definitely powerful and an ingenious use of imagery in storytelling. But anyone with a Tumblr account accustomed to scrolling through bizarre GIF after bizarre GIF could easily miss that connecting thread of story if they went through this too fast. For that reason, it's best to digest the images and move through them slowly - although that begins to feel overwhelming after a single chapter.

    This project has gotten a lot of favorable buzz, which it deserves, and inevitably it's stirred up talk of "the future of the novel." Cue all the hand-wringing about today's ADHD readers and their inability to read Nabakov and aren't books obsolete in a multisensory landscape anyway. (NO is the answer.) But I have a feeling that this project wouldn't be called a novel if it hadn't sprung from an actual novelist - it would be called a narrative multimedia project or visual story capsule or some other vague term.

    Because that's the real door I see opening here - not a visual evolution of the novel so much as a narrative broadening of visual digital mediums. It's exciting to see brief, even momentary, images employed to synergistically convey a much longer story. In some ways Zac's Haunted House is one of the few projects that's found a way to pull depth out of fleeting and superficial mediums. It'll be interesting to see who imitates it and how people will try to merge text and visuals going forward - especially if some of the more creative comic book writers and artists of our time find new ways to combine the two.

Email: Vaxder@gmail.com

Twitter: @Vaxder

Tumblr: tumblr.com/blog/valeriealexander

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