PRYING INTO PRY: A REVIEW
By: Rose Crelli
Cybertext, ergodic, labyrinth, nonlinear, these are all words that could be used to describe the interactive novel iOS app by Tender Claws. Engagingly fusing text, audio and video into an abstract, yet cohesive whole, Pry, a Novella is an innovative force to be reckoned with. Implementing the actions specific to smart phones, Pry, a Novella pinches, slides, pries and tears it’s way into readers experience in a groundbreaking manner. Active members in the electronic literature and digital community, both writers and readers, should experience Pry, a Novella.
Cybertext is a perspective on all forms of textuality, a way to expand the scope of literary studies to include phenomena that today are perceived as outside of, or marginalized by, the field of literature– or even in opposition to it, for extraneous reasons. – Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature (Espen Aarseth)
The storyline transitions back and forth from the perspective of the main character, James, a veteran from the Gulf War six years later, and the perspective of the reader. With sometimes smooth, and sometimes jolting, disorientating flashbacks between the past and present, interspersed with video clips, rapidly flashing sets of words, and audio make Pry constantly moving, and kinesthetic, stimulating.
The system of achieving diamonds as a reward for having thoroughly explored each individual chapter is really the only way to measure how much is possible to discover. It encourages, and entices readers to delve even deeper into the chapters. At times, it is frustrating because unlike a physical, traditional book, you can’t just flip back to the page you want, you have to go back and watch through each video clip. Pry takes patience, but the reward of receiving all four diamonds, plus simply the curiosity of the unknown, makes it worth it the extra effort.
Samantha Gorman, the other half of the Tender Claws team, says “Reading is experienced at the reader’s pace… video is experienced at the director’s pace.” Shifts in power between reader and writer are more flexible and ambiguous in mixed media novels. The relationship between reader, text and writer is open to so many more possibilities than before. Oftentimes, many people associate nonlinear literature as a new-fangled modern invention. However, non linear literature dates all the way back to temples in Ancient Egypt where wall inscriptions on religious text were two or three-dimensional. This is the perfect historical example of a more open and less traditional relationship between reader, text and writer.
However, Jhave, a digital poet writing for the Los Angels Review of Books has an interesting point to consider, “The dilemma for the e-lit hybrid media writing discipline is that the kind of clever custom transitions Pry and other projects use might become next season’s stock filters. Eventually the novelty wears off. ” As an active member of the digital literature community, you’ll have to discover whether Pry, a Novella, is just a one hit wonder, or has the qualities to make it part of the modern literary canon.
Pry, a Novella, has a little bit of everything for everyone. It has the text, the visual, and the audio to make it engaging for all. I challenge you to go the extra mile, and not only receive all sixteen diamonds, but also experience for yourself, as the LA Review of Books says, “the seeds of future lit..”