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Victory Garden notes

There’s a video of Stuart Moulthrop going through his work on the pathfinders vimeo channel

There’s also a sampler of Victory Garden here.

Astrid Ensslin – Canonizing Hypertext: Explorations and Constructions

Victory Garden is set primarily in Tara, an imaginary North American sunbelt state, during the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. It centres around the influence of the media in war correspondence and strategy. Moulthrop explains: ‘Hypertext seemed the right choice – indeed the only choice – to capture the bewildering complexity of such a massively convoluted, hyper-mediated experience’ (quoted in Simanowski, 2000b). The vast array of characters employed by Moulthrop is almost Dickensian in nature, and the reader finds it difficult to identify a protagonist. One may speak of a set of recurring characters, none of whom is textually explored in psychological depth. Going by the surface text as displayed by the lexias, the impression is rather that of a cross-section of media-oriented American society against the backdrop of postmodern warfare. Only upon repeated reading and venturing deep into the hypertext does the reader recognize an underlying ‘intrigues and love’ story. By the same token, the reader’s existing schemas relating to the complexities of human relationships and psychological dispositions are  activated and added to the reading experience as such. These cognitive processes cause textually flat characters to become rounded, and opaque relationships to turn into an intricate and conflicting, yet subjectively transparent, social network.

Alice Bell – The Possible Worlds of Hypertext Fiction

Victory Garden is a historical novel, set in the early 1990s at the beginning of the first Gulf War. The narrative switches between two settings: the Persian Gulf and a university campus in the USA called the University of Tara. While less of the text details the action in Middle East – focusing primarily on the US – the Gulf War is extremely significant in terms of its figurative presence and social resonance. In the two locations readers are given the two views of the war from two different types of character: those who experience it first hand and those who experience it through representations or reports. The difference between the many World Views is most felt through the juxtaposition of Emily Runbird with the other characters. Emily, a former student at the University of Tara, has been drafted to sort military mail in the Gulf as a condition of her government university funding. The rest of her friends remain in the US. They are: Jude Busch who is Emily’s brash friend and a student at Tara; Victor Gardner, Emily’s former lover who is now being pursued by Jude; Boris Urquhart, a professor at the university, who occasionally shows signs of mental illness and is sometimes the object of Emily’s affections; Thea Agnew, a professor at the university, who is Emily’s former thesis advisor and mother
of Leroy. While most reading paths address a variety of thematic concerns, most of the narrative strands centre on the experiences of these characters. They include: Leroy and Thea’s squabbles and reconciliation; Emily and her comrades’ experiences in a Saudi Arabian military base; Boris Urquhart and Stephen Tate’s academic research into dreams and hallucinations; Victor Gardner and Jude Busch’s relationship.

.- -. -.. / .– …. .- – / . .-.. … .

Victory Garden seems based on Jean Baudrillard’s musings about experiencing the Gulf War through the prism of media — a fragmented narrative for exploring a fragmented experience of war-via-US-gov-curated  media. A disorienting form to reflect the disorienting experience of trying to grasp at reality.

From what I can tell from the sampler, it’s told through the perspective of two characters who are aware of all this, theorize a lot about it and are pretty cynical .

Meanwhile the folks back home had also crossed into another space, one that was windowed and projected, theorized and speculated, painted in the most graphic terms.

It was happening for you there in the Gulf, unfolding in terms of death-by-routine or just mechanized boredom, the rush of engagement or the daily drag of uncertainty. You were strung out in a strange enclosure, a tenuous bubble of time and violence. In the words of “Hollywood” Huddleston, you wanted to free these Arab suckers so you could get back to being free yourselves.

We stumbled from room to room flicking on TV’s, radios, tape decks, VCR’s. It was technological potlatch, an offering of power to the gods, conspicuous consumption of information on an epic scale.


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