When discussing the value of multiplicity in literature, the concept of quantity must combine with the already present concept of quality. It is important to make sure to look for all the connections that a subject of study can make but to only take the connections out to a respectable degree. Calvino uses examples of literature by some of the greatest minds of our time. These man tried to write books that would be encyclopedic novels, novels about everything. They conveyed the essence of multiplicity to the max. They believed they could connect all knowledge. The examples of their unfinished works are, like other Calvino examples, the extreme condition for multiplicity. Works can have the quality of multiplicity without taking it to the extremes of such great minds as Carlo Emilio Gadda.
This was the one quality where the ‘blox’ did not give me any trouble. I could easily picture my images that I would put in the ‘blox’. In “Old School”, the narrator becomes so obsessed with a piece of work that was not his that he begins to believe it is his. His reality is skewed from that of actual reality. All of the important events in the story lead up to this final break down of the boy. If the boy would have made just one different choice in his life, he could have possibly avoided such a down fall. For my ‘blox’ I have a timeline running through the middle of the box. The timeline has small images and a short description of events that occurred. It also shows how they were connected. Then, coming off of the timeline, is an alternate timeline, one that shows what the boy thought was occurring in his own reality. These two timelines show the connection between the events in his life.
I believe that the human brain is a great emblem that represents the same qualities of multiplicity that Oni Buchanan’s work, “The Mandrake Vehicles” does. The human brain is made of on neurons that connect all aspects of the our human functions. Scientists say that human beings only use around 10% of their brain functions, so like Calvino’s examples, we are unable to connect everything that we want to. The brain’s neurons are like the letters that connect to create the message in the E-Lit work. The brain is complicated and tangling, similar to the description of multiplicity that Gadda gave, a tangled piece of yarn. Everything in the brain can be connected, and the combinations bring about new information. The multiplicity of the brain could be even more overwhelming the writing the “ultimate book”.
Multiplicity can be seen in many aspects of the world other than just literature. Similar to the connections of the letters, music has many qualities of multiplicity. Music is made up of notes. The notes can be combined together just like the letters, just with more than 26 options. To add or subtract notes from a piece of music is to change it totally. The notes are together though will always make up music, maybe not the best music, but music. The connection between notes is unlimited and the only thing that stops composers from forever combining notes in a song is our worldly concepts of time, creating limits.
The graphic element that I find as the most impactful for the work of Oni Buchanan, “The Mandrake Vehicles”, is hierarchy. The E-Lit work starts with a paragraph, the words all on the same level. As you move through the piece, the letters that are removed to show the connections of other words are risen from the paragraph to show the emphasis of the changing letters. I feel that if the letters that are removed were to be just eliminated with out the effect of hierarchy the powerful meaning behind them would be lost.
As I have browsed over just about every E-Lit work from the anthology, I found myself only looking for works that seemed applicable to my blog, never enjoying them. I finally found a piece of E-Lit that I can use and actually enjoy a lot. Oni Buchanan created a piece called “The Mandrake Vehicles“. It consists of three installments, each of which similar. They have 7 steps in which the viewer must take. The first step starts with a large paragraph of words. Each step then takes out selected letters, changing the entire paragraph to a smaller and totally different message. This goes on until the 7th step where the paragraph is dwindled down to just a few lines. The E-Lit exemplifies multiplicity on a small but accurate scale, but unfortunately in the reverse. The letters are like the subjects of a novel and their connection is unlimited and can lead a person in any direction. Just by eliminating a few letters, the entire meaning changes. This shows you that all letters and words are connected in some degree. I mentioned that the E-Lit was in reverse and that is because the paragraph actually gets smaller, rather than expanding, but the process of the connections of the letters and words is still relevent.
Calvino directly defines his subject for the lecture about multiplicity; “the contemporary novel as an encyclopedia, as a method of knowledge, and above all as a network of connections between the events, the people, and the things of the world.” Calvino strongly believed in this quality. He believed that it was almost impossible to fully define the multiplicity of each subject of study because everything in the world is connected in some way. Every subject can be expanded upon and then expanded again. He begins his lecture with a passage from Carlo Emilio Gadda’s “That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana”. Gadda was one of the writers, like many other greats, who took on the challenge of knowing everything and then tried to write a book of worldly knowledge, a novel as an encyclopedia. Gadda was rarely able to complete his own works because everything he began seemed to expand to the infinite. He was unable to find a point at which it was acceptable to stop connecting and expanding. Robert Musil, an engineer, wrote about the tension between mathematical exactitude and the imprecision of human affairs. He too was unable to complete works because he saw the connection that Gadda was plagued with. The difference between Gadda and Musil was the path at which they found this infinite connection. Gadda saw the connections as a tangled ball of thoughts and ideas that overwhelmed and consumed him. Musil took a more scientific approach, he saw the connections as codes and processes. He believed that there was a rhyme and reason for all the connections but like Gadda was unable to conquer it. Gustave Flaubert was a writer that Calvino also looks to discuss. Flaubert’s novel, “Bouvard and Pecuchet”, is consider the most encyclopedic novel ever written. The title is the names of two characters that take a journey on a ship. Flaubert was a true leaner, he took the time to learn as much as possible, studying any subject he could find. His broad knowledge gave him the ability to use the characters as a venue to express all of his own personal worldly knowledge. He ends the novel with Bouvard and Pecuchet giving up on finding worldly knowledge and deciding to just try to copy the books of the universal library. Although Flaubert’s novel has an ending, it is only an ending that personifies Gadda’s and many other writers’ struggles with the “ultimate book”.
These men, mentioned above, were some of the greatest minds our world has ever seen and they still were unable to even crack the surface of total worldly knowledge. This memo has the best examples because so many tried to show true multiplicity. Everything truly is connected and without multiplicity in one’s work, the reader is robbed of the whole subject, only learning a portion of it.
I began to think about other works I have read personally that seem to exemplify multiplicity. I was stumped at first because I began thinking on a scale similar to that of the works of a novel as an encyclopedia, an area on literature I am unfamiliar with. Then I realized that although those are the best examples, there are plenty of stories that show multiplicity, just on a smaller scale. A series of books that comes to mind when thinking about multiplicity is the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. She takes the life of a small wizard and connects it to an endless world of imagination. The series not only covers the lives of multiple characters, Rowling was able to connect Harry Potter to all ranges of study. She was able to connect him to scenes of danger, love, pain, and much more. The books are so captivating because, even though it was fictional, Rowling was able to create an entire imaginary world. She wrote a novel as an encyclopedia to a world she invented.