Friday, May 2, 2014

Simulation in City of Glass

City of Glass
(The graphic novel. I would never read a book without pictures.)

I know what you're thinking, reader, you're thinking "But Phil, there's so much happening in City of Glass, and I don't understand half of it" and I can appreciate your concerns so rather than attacking the entire graphic novel I'll be trying to break down the contents of one page which relate to simulations as described by Jean Baudrillard in "Simulacra and Simulation".

Also because I'm a generally awesome person, and not a hypocrite, I won't force you to read long without getting to see some neat pictures to keep your interest. Starting with this one here:

(Page 8 + Thumb.)

The page I'd like to examine is page 8. Here the author toys with the ideas of identity and simulation as Quinn's relationship between "Max Work", his fictional detective character, and "William Wilson", the pseudonym under which he writes his Max Work mystery novels.

In thie first panel Quinn is seen exchanging his business card with Max expressing that over the years Work had become "very close" to Quinn. In the previous few pages during Quinn's introduction we are shown that he is a solitary man whose life consists largely of writing and little else, spending more time in the fictional world of Max Work than in our world (already sounding pretty Baudrillardian if you're a nerd like me). This stage of the simulation where Quinn's life and Max's life begin to confuse is demonstrated by the first panel with the swapping of cards:

(Its Baudrillardian. Trust me.)

Next the author explains manner by which Max Work has begun to leak into the real, a feat which would be impossible without the aid of William Wilson, who Quinn describes as an abstract concept as compared to Max Work who is "more alive". Quinn explains that he himself has become something of a puppet producing novels and William Wilson serves as the ventriloquist who controls him. The relationship between Quinn and Wilson can be seen clearly in the third, forth and fifth panel of the page:

Third Panel
(I don't even want to know where his hand is...)

For those of you keeping score at home:
Quinn: Years of isolation make him physically real, but immersed more in Work's world.
William Wilson: The imaginary writer controlling Quinn to create Work's world.
Max Work: Wilson's creation. Quinn feels he's real after years of serving as the bridge between Work's fictional world and our own.

So you'll never guess what happens.

Quinn, being more of a puppet or a portal than a person, but having a presence in the real world becomes the puppet of Max Work and completely replaces William Wilson and Quinn after stepping into our world in Quinn's body. This might seem like some sci-fi fantasy bullshit, but it isn't as intense as that, if I had to boil it down to the basics; Quinn goes nuts and pretends to be a detective.

But it looks cooler when you see it from Quinn's eyes:

Max Work Escaping Into The "Real"
(Max puts Quinn to bed, ending Quinn's stay in reality.)

And then...

(Work leaves through the door into the real!)

So that's how Quinn loses his body to Max Work.
Its not as exciting as Freaky Friday, but I thought it was kinda cool.
The moral of the story seems to be never to use a pen name unless you're willing to get possessed.

(Being possessed makes it very windy even in doors. You'd hate it.)

Peace out

1 comment:

  1. First of all, wow great job breaking that down. I feel like I understand this better now! When you concluded with this whole idea of a pen name and the different (yet same) identities of the author, the "writer," and the characters, all I could think of was JT Leroy. I think it is interesting to think of how in what ways the author and the narrator (or in this case, the pen name of the author) have the same identity, and in what ways they are very distinct individuals. Just because JT Leroy was an imaginary writer does not mean that he did not exist through the mind of Laura Albert and the body of Savannah Knoop. Kind of leads me to wonder: are our corporal bodies more real, or are our minds?

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