Dylan Niehaus – The Babysitter

The Babysitter by Robert Coover is an intriguing piece of literature that, while innovative and interesting, is too confusing and fragmented for me to fully enjoy. The story is written in such a way that it is just a series of events separated physically on the page by paragraphs. Each event seems to switch from one location and set of characters to the next. Based on the reading and other quick research I performed to learn about this piece of electronic literature, the point of The Babysitter is to create a story in which the reader is unsure whether or not the events are either reality or part of a fantasy within the character’s minds. But when I read the story, instead of finding myself guessing whether or not what was happening was fantasy or reality, I just found myself confused and frustrated trying to figure out what was going on in the story. Despite my frustration with this piece of literature, I can definitely respect it for the groundwork that it laid out for future pieces of electronic literature that fall into the category of hypertext fiction. The way in which the story involves the reader in multiple narratives is interesting as each paragraph is an event taking place in a different location with different characters. This strategy of listing out separate events instead of writing a traditional flowing narrative laid out the groundworks for future pieces of hypertext fiction. The Babysitter really cemented the idea of creating a story that can be seen in different ways by the reader, which was quite a feat considering that it was created before electronic literature was a recognized medium. Future writers of hypertext fiction could look back on The Babysitter and utilize present technology to create their own stories with branching narratives by providing different hypertext links, giving the reader more control over what happens in the story. Instead of being a story that can have different meanings to the reader just by the way the story is written, hypertext fiction is now able to give the reader a direct way to shape their “own” story.