Venus Meets Venus

Venus Meets Venus



[spoiler]Venus Meets Venus is a story, not a game, as it makes clear from the outset. By this I don’t simply mean that its intent is deeply serious, though it is. I mean that it belongs on the end of the spectrum of interactive work where the interactivity is used as pacing and embellishment to a narrative that is under strong (indeed, as it seemed to me, complete) authorial control. This is not a game that ever promises the reader the ability to take control of events, even in small details.

I found the story powerful. I have tried several times to summarize it here, but the summary never ends up doing justice to it. It is the story of a relationship. We are told at the outset that it is not a love story; we are told in effect to expect the worst.

And yet, of course, it is, though it is much more than that.

There has recently been some discussion on Victor Gijsber’s blog about the different ways in which one might try to review Comp pieces. In the case of Venus Meets Venus, I feel some of the difficulties that Victor pointed out, not so much because of the confessional nature of the piece or its subject matter, but more because I don’t really feel that my own response to it is “cooked” sufficiently to provide the sort of thorough analysis I think it deserves.

Still, I was impressed by the maturity of the way the themes were handled: this is adult in the positive sense of the word. This is not a “confessional” work, as I read it; nor is it simply an exploration of certain issues of gender and sexuality (though they are prominent, and I suspect approached in a way that will make some people unhappy). As I read it, it is (more than that) an exploration of certain common aspects of human relationships. The protagonist, Lynn, in her own estimation, “fucks up” the relationship between her and Macy in many ways. But the main focus seemed to be on selfishness, or self-centredness. Each of Lynn’s “fuck ups” represents a different kind of failure to grasp the other as other. Some are straightforward (infidelity). Some are much more complex – in particular the way that Lynn makes assumptions about Macy, each of which turns out to be flawed. What those failed assumptions have in common is that they place Macy into boxes which suit Lynn, but each of them ends up getting in the way of any sort of connection between them.

I found the story, in general, satisfyingly rich. I liked the fact that it is, in parts, ambiguous and conflicted. Lynn is a strong narrative voice, not always likeable (to herself, either); Macy is less three-dimensional, and I would have been interested to see how the story might have looked if it had developed a greater critical distance from her. (For instance: is her apparently open self-presentation authentic or truly honest, or is it, in part, manipulative?)

The writing, I thought, was often effective. It’s at its best when it’s at its plainest, in scenes where something is happening. When it turns introspective (signalled, as far as I could see, by a loss of capital letters, which I found distracting, though I took it that it was intended to indicate something quasi poetic), it seems less sure. This sort of poetic diction is hard to get right, and sometimes it tips over into the trite or the portentous. An attempt to use numbers, and their notional “characters”, to mark themes section by section seemed strained. As I said above, only light use is made of interactive elements (many screens offer only one link, effectively to advance the story), but the limited use I thought was effective and added something, pacing the story and providing a sense of explanation and opening-up at certain key points.

I thought there were some signs (typos, what looked like non-existent twine links left in the text) that the later part of the work not have been proof-read and tested as thoroughly as the early part.

I found Venus Meets Venus raw and difficult, but it is evidently supposed to be. It may well divide critics, and I have a sneaking suspicion that my take on it may well not coincide with the majority. Like so many pieces, it could benefit from thorough constructive criticism to tighten up the writing still further, to iron out glitches, and perhaps to consider whether the mix of interactive and non-interactive elements is optimal.[/spoiler]