HYPERTEXT: A Bottle of Beer – Close Reading

March 21st, 2008 by susan


Steve Ersinghaus is doing a wonderful series on reading hypertext, one that has helped me to understand better how to read deeper into any form of literature while it emphasizes the nature of hypertext to form a story that examines itself by its forms of writing spaces.  He has graciously been using A Bottle of Beer as one of the examples in his series and I’d like to attempt to present a particular premise that he so astutely noticed–that I as author hadn’t really consciously written in.

The text spaces in question:

(FRAGMENT) – HARD TIMES
Yolanda prayed to the Virgin Mary because of their bond of motherhood, though she’d never suffered the groping and plunging of Javier and Juan, nor the sweet touch of Carlos.

From her gruff abuelo through her father and brothers and husbands and sons to even the Padre or Mary’s own Son, if there was any man Yolanda had trusted, it had been Carlos.

Then Carlos had broken her heart with his fist, leaving it like clay shards of a flowerpot, no longer capable of holding the soil in which to grow love.

(SHARD)
It was all right with her grandfather, he had told her it was.  But Yolanda wasn’t sure about what she did with her brother.

(SHARD)
There was a meteor shower one night.  Yolanda had awakened and though she did not know the hour, she later believed that it was the time between midnight and two that Carlos had died a year before.

She went outside and walked a distance from the house to relieve herself.  As she squatted and waited, she looked up to see the stars dying in bursts across the sky.

She watched for a while and decided it was a sign that she was forgiven.

The Fragment is from the linear narrative of the story, the Shards are linked from certain words within the text of the Fragment.  Steve says:

Curiously, in Hard Times, Gibb restricts the reader to the writing space without supplying a link for exposition or further exploration. It would appear that Yolanda is reluctant to give up some aspects of this relationship to the narrator. Instead, the additional opportunities for exploration point to other men in Yolanda’s life. Conceptually in the hypertext, this amounts to a undisclosed shard, a shard, or additional linked memory, that might have been, or, rather, may be imagined by the reader, unseen but imagined, untouched, but an aspect of the texture of Yolanda in the reader.

Well, I hadn’t thought of that but I love the idea of it and with luck it will remain with me through all current and future hypertext writings.  In retrospect, what might have stopped me from explanation is what Ersinghaus has called a "unit of sense" in the first part of his series.  The relationship between Yolanda and her third husband, Carlos has been given out a bit at a time, in images that provide a representation of years in a single act.  They are honest and yet they are without a lot of emotion.  Here, the image of the broken pot is likely all Yolanda can offer without sentiment.  We have already seen her crying in her bed at night and she probably would not have let us seen that had we not caught her in a weak moment. 

Instead, what I’ve brought out from the Fragment of Hard Times is a reference to sexual abuse by Yolanda’s grandfather and brother, and a meteor shower that oddly takes place a year after Carlos’ death, but Yolanda takes as a sign of forgiveness.  We don’t know how Carlos died.  We do know about Juan.  Many times I’ve gone back to this particular shard and said to myself, no, that should be Juan, not Carlos’ death that’s mentioned. But something keeps stopping me.  Something Yolanda might know that she hasn’t even told me.

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