Really, universally, relations stop nowhere, and the exquisite problem of the artist is eternally but to draw, by a geometry of his own, the circle within which they shall happily appear to do so.

- Henry James

This section is admittedly an experiment. I've tried to build lots of choices into the way this site is organized. Nevertheless, the challenge of writing non-linearly has gotten the better of me at times.

At some point early on, I realized that even though I was writing in independent chunks, there was definitely still a determining structure to the material I came up with. One is always conscious in the process of writing of the different ways a body of ideas can be arranged; nonetheless, the act of organizing thoughts automatically imposes a certain order on them that it is hard to think outside of. Although I didn't have a traditional outline and instead mapped my ideas out somewhat three-dimensionally, my writing wrote me into certain conventions in spite of my best intentions. My "paper" doesn't look like traditional linear academic work, but it still reads in some traditional ways. You might not recognize that at first if you consider the context of the web novel enough, but I was attempting to make an argument in a fundamentally different way, not just in a different setting.

So I've gotten to think a lot about the nature of argument, which is productive. I don't think I could have written any differently the first time around; the process of articulating a complex web of thoughts is traumatic enough. With more time for revision, hopefully, I can build further room for different narrative lines into my text. If hypertext is supposed to allow for multiple perspectives, this "tour" section is a beginning for this project.

The dominant way that this site is organized is by topic (background on the Thirties, jook joints, etc.) The question I've considered is what it would look like arranged thematically? The idea of a thematic tour here is a path through the material on this site that jumps around in the conventional organization. (I couldn't resist the tour metaphor.) The danger is that it is too disorientingly ahistoric. I want to acknowledge how this "experimental" approach can then work in an exclusive way- the more you already know, the easier of a time you'll have. But what are experiments for? Hopefully you'll find it a constructive experience.

This is how it works:


You arrive at a page and read it, ignoring the links that would take you elsewhere in the site. (You should feel free to explore the links that are featured in the body of the text, that just open up supplementary material). In the thematic tour box at the right of the page, you hit the link marked "commentary" that opens up a commentary box. You read the box and either close it or just click back on the main page, onto the link marked "next stop." That will take you to the next page in the tour, where you follow the same steps. Like one of those museum audio tours, my commentary should provide a transition into the next piece or page.

For example, if you hit the link marked commentary in the thematic tour box at your left, a new window should come up describing what the thematic focus of this tour is and what you'll find on the first page of the tour. When you are done reading, click the link marked next stop and the tour will begin.


Juliet Gorman, May 2001