This is a work of fiction told in verse, cinematically, and with video games about the coming of age of a girl named Alice. This novel— self-consciously labelled as such to evoke the original meaning of the term: a new genre— reinvents the genre in digital media for a generation portrayed through Alice.
Even though Alice’s circumstances are atypical (living around the world with her oil industry employed father and being home-schooled by her artist mother), she is emblematic of a generation whose experience of the world is deeply interconnected with digital media. Her developing literacy includes programming her animated creation and imaginary friend Brad on a portable device that allows her to take photographs and videos, play games, search information, and symbolically be a part of her, containing some of her memory and identity. This device is the 21st century version of the journal or diary, in which an Alice from previous centuries would have developed her voice and identity through writing, drawing, painting, scrapbooking, and other multimodal forms of writing compatible with paper-based technologies. Curiouser and curiouser.
It is therefore not surprising that Alice is protective of her device: it is an intimate part of her identity. As most children and early teenagers, she more a spectator than a protagonist in the narrative of her family’s life, though she always contributes, and we see her grow and become more independent in each episode.
And like the matryoshka dolls emphasized in the game, each episode is larger than the one before, in 5-minute increments. Are Pullinger and Babel (Chris Joseph’s nom d’ordinateur) training their readers to have longer attention spans with their serialized digital novel?
Tomorrow’s posting will focus on some of the multimedia expressive strategies used in the latest installment of this remarkable novel.