On its surface, the hypertext literature piece entitled The Brain Drawing the Bullet is a fictional short story; it assumes the format of correspondence between two writers (named G. and L.) based upon accounts of popular postmodernist writer William S. Burroughs’ (referred to as B.) accidental killing of his then wife Joan Vollmer Adams. The event is shrouded in controversy due to varying accounts by Burroughs and other witnesses present that night on what exactly transpired.
When entering this particular work, the viewer is initially faced with the title in near-black serif text, centered at the top of the white webpage. A small red ‘enter’ arrow is located beside the last character in the title; this arrow is the only method of interaction that the viewer is given control of in order to advance the narrative. As one clicks on said arrow, the negative space below the title is revealed to be anticipation space for the successive letters and editor’s notes to follow. The text itself is laid out in a columnar format, varying between 4, then 3, then 6 columns. Each letter between G. and L. is dated to a particular month and day. The letters are revealed all at once, while the eyewitness accounts are revealed in segments. Another important factor to note are the small edits that take place in the previous text after the viewer continues to the next segment of the story.
The Brain Drawing the Bullet draws from qualities of Burroughs’ own writing, drenching itself in an air of paranoia; this extends the comparison further than the simple fact that it is based on a real event from his life. The scripted element of the hypertext that adds or edits single words and phrases within previously read segments could be connected to the “cut-up technique” of altering text popularized by Burroughs through the 1950s and 60s. This feature also introduces an instability to the piece that parallels the increasing instability of the character L. as the story progresses. Often times the edits repeat the same phrase multiple times in a row, lending more credence to the ‘instability’ interpretation. The hypertext’s narrative is advanced through the two central characters’ discussion of their work in question, rather than allowing the reader to see the work itself. This aspect along with the minor interaction by the viewer and the slow revelation of the text in easily-digestible chunks increases the intrigue and anticipation felt in the piece. As the correspondence unfolds, L. establishes his detached affinity for Burroughs through his “extreme happiness” to write on “B.’s own accident”, reveling in the horror of the event. Similar to Burroughs’ own introspections on the accidental killing of his wife, L. sees the event in a transformative light- that this is what “made [Burroughs] a writer”.
All in all, The Brain Drawing the Bullet is an interesting introspection into a tragic event in the life of author William S. Burroughs as it pertains to his growth as an author and what it may say about other aspiring authors seeking to emulate his work.