235' is an "online hypertext novel . . . composed primarily of 253 different blocks of text hyperlinked together in numerous ways, each of which contains 253 words. Each 253-word block paints a portrait of a single person riding on a seven-car London Tube train on the morning of January 11th, 1995. Unbeknownst to any of these people, the train is about to crash, and everyone left aboard is about to die. Not only are the text blocks regularized by word count, each person's block presents a similar three-part snapshot of that person, a triptych which moves from a superficial appraisal into deeper, more intimate assessments. Ryman calls these sub-sections 'outward appearance,' 'inside information,' and 'what he [or she] is doing or thinking,' and each represents a double-take, reiteration, or revisiting of that person's story. The 'action' of this novel takes place in seven and a half minutes, enough time for the train to leave Embarkment Station, make stops at Waterloo and Lambeth North, then fail to stop at Elephant and Castle (the end of the line) and crash. Each person's 253-word block of text takes the reader through the same chunk of time; the novel starts over again at the beginning every time you read about a new character. Some make important decisions during these seven and a half minutes but many do not. Some of the passengers get off the train at one of the two stops, unwittingly saving themselves, but many do not. Like real passengers on any London train, these people come from all walks of life, are of all different sizes, races, ages, nationalities, genders, and sexual orientations. The only things they have in common are that they are all on a train that is about to crash, and that nobody is aware catastrophic mass death is so near. Ryman explains upfront that in the real world there was no disastrous train crash on January 11th, 1995, but he makes it clear that he does have a real-world referent for setting the novel on the day he does: '[It] is the day I learned my best friend was dying of AIDS.'" -- Eric Sonstroem, "Repetition and the Work of Hypertextual Mourning"


Riding the Meridian

Published in 2001 by Riding the Meridian.

This copy was given to the Electronic Literature Lab by Jennifer Ley in Spring of 2019. Copy media format: web.