A Response to Ander Monson’s Solipsism

This Response is All About Me.

One area of interest to me, in regards to literary narratives, is the internet and the way in which a writer can add layers of meaning utilizing tools such as hypertext markup language (aka HTML) and hyperlinks, not to mention multi-media tools like photos, audio and video. These tools allow for a certain kind of interactivity with the reader that is not available in traditional printed formats. Yes, with the printed page you can skip to the end and read that first, but a reader is going to read from beginning to end. And rarely, I would argue, will the reader put the book down and go pick up another book and start reading it from oh, say page number 27, then go back to the original book. In my experience, once I put a book down (and remember, this response is all about me) and go get another book to read, it’s because the first book has bored me and I’m not going to finish it. By adding hypertext— words that are highlighted and generally underlined indicating that you can click on them—you can send your reader to another website (or if you’re smart to another page on your website) for more information.

A website that is set up like a blog offers even more opportunity for interactivity. In fact, the reader can in effect hijack the writer’s work by way of comments or trackbacks (commenting from his/her own blog). Thus, the comments, written by persons other than the original author, become part of the essay. Sometimes the comments become more interesting than the original post.

The web also offers a lack of permanence — text can be constantly revised. Once I print this paper and hand it in, it is a thing that has been made, and is permanent, though I would not be surprised if it ends up in the shredder. The company I work for actually shreds excess paper and uses it for packing material . I suspect that readers of this work will probably not shred, but may in fact recycle. Some may re-use, printing on the back side of this. Of course that will give their own writing added meaning that he or she did not in fact intend. Oh well.

The web also offers permanence, which seems to directly oppose the previous paragraph I wrote. Just try to get your website out of the google database and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Or that mySpace page you created showcasing your, um, talents at the Girls Gone Wild beach party during Spring break. Yeah. Your future employer will find it long after it is gone.

Scanned from Best American Essays 2008The printed version of Ander Monson’s piece Solipsism plays with form by adding the diagramed asides that augment the text much the way that David Foster Wallace uses footnotes. Or much in the way that hypertext language can augment words on the web. When I looked online and found Monson’s website (I am Google Girl) where I assume the essay first appeared, this technique was not employed. The only hypertext language was a link to the magazine The Pinch where Monson’s essay was first “picked up”. The link, however was broken as evidenced by the google page that showed up once I actually clicked. It did open in a new window, however.

It appears that although Monson claims that the essay was to be “revised in perpetuity if necessary…” he has not revised it since its inclusion in the Best American Essays of 2008 where I read the essay initially (and remember, this response is all about me). And he has not corrected the broken link to The Pinch.

screen shot

You can click on my hypertext to get to the correct website for The Pinch.

This is the web rendition of my response on my website. Where it may or may not be revised, and where it may or may not be commented upon. Hopefully it will not be commented upon by the cyberstalker I picked up along the way (a former co-worker who is apparently jealous of my success and even though he was fired a year ago, continues to leave nasty remarks on my website which I delete. This is my prerogative as it is my website and is all about me.

3 thoughts on “A Response to Ander Monson’s Solipsism

  1. We read Monson’s essay in my Memoir class just as you did in the Best Essays 2008 and were just as shocked as you to find the version on his website does not use hypertext for the asides. We are also Google girls, which led us to you and your excellent remarks on this topic.
    May we all edit in perpetuity,
    Professor Winik and the women of PBDS 627.085 at the University of Baltimore.


  2. Oh, Ander Monson. I laughed a lot – this is a perfect response. I’m also struck by the time difference and what has or hasn’t happened with lit on the web, all the toys and tools it offers. You wrote this in ’09, the essay was in a “best of” in ’08, which means it was written – ’07 maybe? I wonder if he would write this essay today.


  3. agreed Sandra! not much has changed… and even journals that are now publishing online are just replicating the print version rather than utilizing all the cool, nifty, and now inexpensive multi media tools out there!


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