“Twelve Blue” by Michael Joyce

Screen capture from"Twelve Blue" by Michael Joyce. Blue background with light blue text written on it. Text: Due to the color scheme, it is both too hard too read and too small to read.
Open “Twelve Blue” by Michael Joyce

Michael Joyce’s “Twelve Blue” is a hypertext narrative told from different perspectives. It is possible to start reading at many different points and, as the stories unfold the reader discovers new meanings in old sequences.

The text is written in HTML, but the simplicity of the code does not reflect the complex structure of the story. It is subtle: the different story lines shift the emphasis to different characters and offer some insights into their thoughts.  While not a point of view change (which might also require a change in narrator), what we have is a change of focus from one character to another and from one story to another.

The menu in the left hand side shows the story lines, represented in various colors and allowing for a navigation that does not depend on the hyperlinks in the text. As in afternoon, Joyce presents us with exquisite prose sprinkled with witty observations about the characters:

What links the dead man and the murderer, the drowned man and the shore, a once wife and her current lover, dream to memory, November to the new year?

What links daughter to daughter, girl to boy, sky to moon, blue river to blue air?

Why do we think the story is a mystery at heart? Why do we think the heart a mystery?

Who shares one voice?

Why do you want more?

Why do we live? Why do we have to die?

Turn the page, child, turn the page.


She was somewhere between smart and smartass. Smart in the British sense: stylish. Cerulean pearl eye shadow above sparkling eyes. Though curiously she wore no hose, not even in winter. Smart also in the usual sense: sharp as one of the opal headed tacks on the grey banquette.

The persistent reader will learn about the relationship between the doctor, Javier, and the quilting virologist, Lisle (nicknamed Lee), as well as about their daughters Tevet (Beth) and Samantha (Sam), about Javier’s ex-wife and Tevet’s mother, Aurelie (also nicknamed Lee) and her lover, Lisa, about Eleonor and Ed Stanko and about Delores and the drowned boy. The theme of the double is explored through the narrative, where many characters have a doppelgänger (Tevet/Samantha; Lisle/Aurelie or double themselves through their nicknames).

As with other hypertext narratives the temptation is to create a “method” for reading and to try to be systematic about it. Joyce, aware of this and in an attempt to tease the reader, offers hyperlinks in some of the pages that jump from one story line to another. Some of the links are embedded in tantalizing sentences, baits that the reader might feel obliged to take: “Follow me before the choices disappear.” Statements like this have implications for the story and beyond. We are compelled to follow, afraid of losing the possibility to choose. But perhaps our choices have been taken away already.

Featured in The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1

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