“MUPS” – An exploration of Electronic Literature

MUPS by David “Jhave” Johnston

After clicking on the link to this work, I spent a little bit of time trying to decide if the link was bad because it looked so blank and boring – no color or bits of interest to speak of. I finally was brave enough to click on one of the boxes, which then just led me to another giant diagram of light grey boxes – nothingness. Having no real other option, I picked a box and listened. It was a poem that I am at least vaguely familiar with, being read by a slightly monotone male voice. It was only by holding my cursor over said box that I was able to see these words:

Jackson MACLOW
02
Call-Me-Ishmael
Reading-on-the-Gathes
NYC
1970’s

This of course brought up a million little questions. Why is it MACLOW instead of Maclow? What is with all of the dashes in between phrases? Is Jackson a first or last name? It occurs to me that maybe this is Dewey Decimal listing of some sort, so I move on.

Next I click on Grace MAISA, then Caroline BERGUALL, then Ron SILLIMAN…before it finally occurs to me that I can possibly choose more than one box. I then attempt to make a pattern – a star – and I start the voices off in a round. I listen quietly for a while, noting authors names and trying to pick out individual voices out of the crowd. Then things got a little crazy…I chose about twenty boxes at random and set them all off…just to see. What struck me about this work at that point is that it is an absolutely beautiful, lyrical, musical piece. I had Paul DUTTON’s horrible mouth buzzing ringing in my ears while seventeen other voices spoke to me in different volumes and tones, while two others played old music from the thirties or forties.

Diction and accent informs the work as much as pauses for breath, as much as the choices I made as I explored, as much as the authors choices…

One last thing that I found odd that I still can’t quite pinpoint the reason for is the way some buttons refuse to play again after you have pushed them more than once. They remain light grey, while others turn dark grey, light red, and dark red. So, apparently color is part of this symphony of sound as well.