Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Book and Game: For the Unitiated

[Book and Game is a new feature for Cut Out & Keep. We select a book and a game that are somehow thematically linked with the aim of cross-pollinating their audiences. Bookworms, try the game; Gamers, give the book a whirl!]

Rather than these two being thematically linked, however, I'm simply going to recommend the poetry book and game I think are most likely to convert the deeply hesitant and challenge their preconceptions of the respective mediums.

BOOK: The Solex Brothers (Redux), Luke Kennard (Salt Publishing, 2007)

None of the poems in The Solex Brothers have line breaks. They are all multi-parter short stories taking place in strange, constantly shifting miniature universes. In almost every paragraph, Kennard attempts to subvert one expectation or another. In the title poem, the narrator is cajoled into murdering the Solex Brothers by the local townsfolk (who may be lying). The poison fails to work but instead turns the Solex Brothers into babbling poets. A year later, the narrator is still in contact with them, offering them advice:

"What are you supposed to do when someone doesn't like you?"
"Kill them," I said.
The line went dead.

Why is it poetry, then, and not prose? Because the lines, rather than simply providing a narrative function, can't help but make you aware of their texture and strangeness. Whereas prose is typically used as a means of conveying images and information into your head, poetry wants you to notice its language, the medium of delivery, the same way good food needs to be tasted as much as it needs to be swallowed.

GAME: Portal 2, Valve, 2011

You'll have seen me posting on this before, and if you're even vaguely aware of what's being talked about in the gaming scene, you'll have heard the hype. You might even have seen Charlie Brooker writer about it in The Guardian.

Portal 2 is a game in which you never shoot anyone, nor batttle in outrageous outfits, nor chat to bosomy, half-nude girls. Its levels are huge, three-dimensional puzzles that you solve by creating portals and messing with physics. It's also a comic sci-fi parable whose main antagonist is a scientific evangelist for whom the purpose of life (particularly human life) is to test. Your only quest: escape. Escape the endless testing any way you can. Like numerous Kurt Vonnegut stories, the moral behind Portal 2 is that even the most worthy cause eventually becomes absurd, authoritarian dogma when married to ego and obsession. So it goes that we're left to run a treadmill inside a vast and meaningless machine. And when humans make ideological mistakes, they don't do it by halves.

Did I mention that playing the co-op mode with a friend is some of the purest fun available to those with a networked computer (and a friend)? It encourages teamwork, collaboration and a playful approach to problem-solving. It makes you want to high-five each other - and then goes ahead and lets you do it into the bargain:

Oh, sorry. That's a hug. You can do that too.

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