Category: Quickness

Quickness: Analogy

My analogy is teaching.

When teaching someone something you have to work quickly and keep the person engaged. If you have irrelevant details or go off on tangents you will lose the person. But, if you keep the person actively listening and interested in what you are saying they will pick up what you are teaching them faster.

Last summer I taught English at summer camps throughout Italy. It was challenging to keep 10 Italian children’s attention when I don’t speak Italian and they speak very little English. I learned that by keeping them active and having short lesson plans I could keep their attention and interest.

To say the least, Poundstone’s E-lit piece keeps your attention. The words and unrelated symbols are flying by so quickly that you are constantly having to process what you just saw and yet pay attention to what is next. Just as in teaching, you want to continually be changing topics so that you are keeping their interest. But, you don’t want to move as fast as this E-lit piece does because then you will probably leave your student in the dust.


My emblem for quickness is a bicycle.

Just like Calvino’s horse, I prefer a story that gets me to the end quickly. However, I chose the bicycle because it is a little more of an updated form of transportation than horseback riding. However, I did not choose a car for a reason. I still prefer older forms of stories, than the newest ones. When I say older, I mean books. I would consider the car to be an emblem for E-literature.

A bicycle is often ridden for enjoyment. Linear stories that often come in the form of books are often for entertainment purposes. They may have agendas, but they are still entertaining. That is the main reason we read. With bicycles, you can stop whenever you would like to. You don’t have to find a parking place like in a car. I am obviously a fan of bicycles. I ride one to school everyday. The reader is in control in a book. They can turn the page whenever they like.

With E-literature the viewer has to wait for the next button to pop before they move on. And every piece of E-literature is different, so you are not even sure there is going to be a button.

With Poundstone’s E-lit piece the viewer cannot control the speed. The speed is given to the viewer and they must take it as it is. At times the speed is almost too fast.

When an author writes, I want them to get to the point quickly. However, when they choose their format to tell the story, I would like some control over the speed.

Quickness: Rhythm and Balance

Balance acts as a catalyst for form – it anchors and activates elements in space…Rhythm is a strong, regular, repeated pattern.

William Poundstone uses both rhythm and balance in his E-literature piece.

As each word flashes by there is a random symbol behind it. The symbols do not balance the piece because they are all different in size and shape. However, Poundstone consistently uses a blue background, white symbol, and black word. This consistency creates balance as the different length words and different sized symbols flash by.

Each word and symbol are on the screen for exactly the same amount of time. This consistency in time creates a nice rhythm throughout the piece. 

Half way through, the background starts to change. There is a circular gradation that appears and get bigger and smaller, frequently moving. The circle comes from the middle of the page. This keeps the symbol and word balanced and grounded in the middle of the page. The circle continually pulses in and out. This pulse creates a rhythm as well throughout the piece.

The accompanying music  follows the movements of the background. When the piece begins, the background is static and the music is slower. However, when the background starts to move, the music picks up pace. The music not only complements the background, but adds its own sense of rhythm to the piece.

In Project for Tachistoscope [Bottomless Pit] one word at a time flashes quickly across the screen. Each word has white symbol behind it. For example, to the left you see the word by and a 35mm projector behind it.

The author, William Poundstone, is bringing association between word and image. And doing so quickly.

If Poundstone slowly changed from one word to the next the person would get bored and it would be harder to follow along with the story. Imagine having to read: The……………………………………. boy……………………………….  ran……………………………………….. home……………………………….

The viewer’s attention would not be caught. However, each word is flashed quickly across the screen. Not only does this keep the viewer alert and entertained, but it assists Poundstone in reaching another goal.

Poundstone wanted to make the reader “highly conscious of how texts and images are read together”.

Because the words and images flash across the screen, the reader does not have time to analyze why the word “by” and the image of a movie projector were placed together. Instead, the viewer barely has time to take in the word and image before the next one appears.

Quickness: Calvino

Calvino’s first example of quickness is the story of Charlemagne as told by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly. The entire story is told in ten sentences.

Every detail given in the story is necessary to advance the plot of the story.

By stressing the importance of quickness, Calvino is stressing the importance of telling a story well. A story does not need to be long to be good. It just needs to be told well, and that often means quickly.

Calvino’s emblem of quickness is a horse because it gets someone to a destination quickly.

Just like a horse, a story should get to the end quickly. That way the listener’s attention is more likely to be kept. Calvino tells the story of a woman who after accepting a horse ride from a man, decides to walk the rest of the way because the story he is telling his so boring. Just as this little boy, to the left, is bored by his slow horse ride.

This semester I am taking a class on the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. Most of their stories are a page and a half long. The Brothers Grimm are experts on quickness. They never try to build anticipation, they just tell you what happens. Every detail is necessary to either advance the moral or the plot of the story. They are a lot different than the Disney adaptations we grew up watching. There are no erroneous songs. Instead, a lot of repetition fills the pages of the stories. Sometimes it is almost funny how quickly the Brothers Grimm tie up the stories. The characters will be in the midst of conflict and then all of the sudden the evil step-mother dies and they live happily ever after. But, there is no time for you to get distracted or bored. The Brothers Grimm take you on many a speedy, entertaining horse rides.