Brief, the new novel by Alexandra Chasin, associate professor of literary studies at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts, is no traditional book—indeed, it’s not even a traditional e-book. Brief, which comes out in September 2012 from Jaded Ibis Productions, is not just a novel, but also an app.
Written by Chasin and prepared as an app by Parsons faculty member Scott Peterman (Parsons MFA, Design and Technology, ’12), Brief enters the realm of interactive books as a first in the oncoming wave of literary apps designed to incorporate their medium as an integral part of the storyline.
“It’s very exciting to work at the juncture of old and new media, to be able to design a technological form that perfectly manifests the ideas and the story elements in this narrative,” says Chasin. “Scott’s expertise in code-writing and my kooky text came together to make something really new, but we expect and hope to see more and more literary app monsters in the near future.”
In a funny, angry, hyper-articulate monologue, an art vandal makes a passionate plea to a judge in a courtroom – and by implication, to the reader herself. The narrator has been charged with defacing a masterpiece of modern art, and asks the judge (and reader) to consider the following argument: maybe the way we turn out is less the fault of our parents, and more the effect of larger cultural and historical influences.
Rich with references to the high art, mass culture, political ideologies, and military maneuvers of the post-war era, from the Cold War to the invasion of television, Brief chronicles the formation of an art vandal, until the story explodes in an enactment of “temporary insanity.” At that point, the narrator tears up a stack of images and throws them into the air, so that they fall literally onto the text of the vandal’s monologue, an action mimicked by the app’s function as it randomly locates fragments of images on the screen.
The app places images from a preselected cache of 700 and then wraps the text around them. As a result, every screen of Brief is unique, generating brand new combinations and new meanings. Swipe forward and backward, you will never see the same screen twice. Fragmented, composited, detailed, and abstracted, the images in Brief do not serve to illustrate, but rather to evoke, the time period in play, while their randomization probes the question of cause and effect in history. Chasin’s collaborator, programmer Scott Peterman, wrote groundbreaking code in order to design this iPad app-novel in a way that invites readers into the story’s courtroom, and to enrich and complicate the art vandal’s defense.
Check out the trailer for Brief here and learn more about Chasin here, or come to Brief ‘s launch at Dixon Place, 161A Christie St., Sunday, September 30, from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Work by Tracie Morris, Jack Halberstam, and Ira Livingston is also being launched at this event.