Individual Work
Kind of Blue

Kind of Blue, while a complete email novel or "chatmail," is also the latter element of a two-part email fiction project began by Rob Wittig in his Blue Company project. According to the Blue Company description, Rettberg "missed the daily installments in his inbox to the point that he began to compose and e-mail a response, a sequel, a rebuttal...in which the characters of Blue Company are re-cast and re-imagined."

The novel consists of a series of emails sent among the characters, beginning with an unlikely romance and darkening to a murder investigation. The structure of the novel is fairly simple: the reader first encounters a hyperlinked list of the emails in chronological order, which serves as a table of contents. Clicking on any link takes the reader through to that email, a pale blue frame with black text, laid out over a royal blue background. The emails themselves contain no links or clickable options, save buttons to move to the previous email or the next email (which subtly directs the reader to move through the email lexias in order), or to return to the "Inbox." There are no attachments or links to external pages, keeping the reader contained within the narrative itself. The reading experience is voyeuristic: the "Inbox" could ostensibly be the reader's inbox, and these personal emails have somehow landed there for perusal.

On a surface level, this visual and structural design appears to mimic the email experience that is now part of our daily existence. But on several deeper levels, the novel becomes divorced from this typical inbox feel. The reader cannot save, move, forward, or reply to these messages. They are, in a sense, artifacts, frozen. The reader can observe¬óagain, with a voyeuristic feel, given the personal content of the emails¬óbut cannot take part in the narrative as s/he would if this were truly an email inbox.

On a textual level, Kind of Blue is a combination of the carelessly composed email, the intimately considered handwritten letter, and first person narrative that occasionally drifts into poetry, depending on the character. The longish emails are quite detailed and forthright, and display little of the editing capabilities of the email form, relying instead upon the notion that the characters are apt to hit "send" before taking a read-through, offering their thoughts in their raw form. The exposition and character revealed tend toward the first person narrative style, cut up and sent as emails. As a result, Kind of Blue merges digital communication and literary storytelling into a narrative that fits neatly into neither category, stretching the bounds of each.

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