Agency in a Complex Story: Reader of Jackson & Reader of Life

Shelley Jackson’s project Ineradicable Stain and  “My Body & a Wunderkammer” intrigued me with the vast multitude of storytelling. I appreciated the links that were embedded in a specific story that lead the reader to another story. The author used the connection of associating similar words to differing stories. By doing this, Shelley Jackson deviates from binary structures that have dominantly existed in cultures before the mass usage of internet technology. However, by using modern technology as a vehicle for these stories, Jackson constructs a more complicated depiction of her personal experiences that are arguably more similar to the complexities of life. It is quite laborious to uphold pure dichotomies of black/white, right/wrong, man/woman, etc. Instead, there are many instances that are black, white, and grey: more of a mix, or the coexistence of both (an inbetween). However, the human minds thirst for order reverts some sort of comfort in this more narrow structure of storytelling. Shelley Jackson expands her narrative by lending her readers access to her associations with her stories and her other stories. This method is a fabulously queer and defiant way to portray narratives because it involves the acknowledgement of human multitudes and contradiction.


Furthermore, it also provides Jackson’s audience with agency unlike the more passive participation of traditional literature. The reader may click certain links and engage in certain topics before others. This creates a chronological experience that is unique to each reader’s interests. I perceived some of this method in the Raw Shark Texts, however, I do not think Steven Hall stylized it well. I’d rather have seen him tackle an assemblage of a more specific issue or experience rather than the whole personality disorder phenomenon. The latter, in my opinion, prevented the reader from diving deeper into this structure of storytelling. In contrast, Jackson uses her sexuality and idea of gender to complicate traditional cultural dichotomies. Therefore, I appreciated her project immensely more than Hall’s more broad abstract area of storytelling.

In addition to the idea of having a reader participate in the story via digital medium, I have experienced this same exciting aspect in the form of a physical medium: books. While reading Jackson’s work, it reminded me of R.L. Stine’s Goosebump novels I read as a younger person. The books of this series characterized by a holographic cover meant that the reader was able to participate in the novel. The beginning of a story would describe the eerie setting, and then when the plot would raise a decision the protagonist had to make, the reader would have to decide on the choices of action that the author made available followed by the page number the reader would turn to after deciding. These books fascinated me, maybe even empowered me as a reader. I would always “die” very early on in the novel, but then go back to try to figure a way to sustain through by picking up the qualities in a decision the author would reward. Yet sometimes there was no order to this technique. The lack of traditional structure reverts to the point I previously made about being more true to the complexities of daily life.



So I saw these novels similar to the form of Shelley Jackson’s project. Jackson is less bridled by forming physical material of reader’s choice because she utilizes digital media. There are also obvious differences such as the genre of goosebumps is horror, and Jackson’s work is autobiographical.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this form of work because the reader’s engagement and agency greatly increases with these modes. Also the ability to incorporate multidudes, complexities, and contradictions into form is a very effective use in storytelling. However, I’m sure as I become more familiar with this style the setbacks of it will also become more apparent.


~ by hamshanwitch on February 3, 2013.

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