If you’ve ever read–or, more likely, tried and failed to read–James Joyce’s Ulysses, you’re familiar with the sense that the swirling mass of words is deliberately taunting you with its obscurity. Ulysses can be a fun, funny book, but even the most diehard fans would acknowledge that it’s also supremely frustrating. It’s a book that always forces you to think about reading. And so goes Ariel Malka’s new app, which plays on the act of reading without really being a reading app.
Malka has created several experiments in the past under the name Chrono Text all exploring the nature of text. The Joyce experiment, entitled “He liked thick word soup,” is a game that’s meant to replicate the feeling of reading (and attempting to understand) Joyce’s book. Available for the iPhone and iPad as an app, the game features excerpted sentences from Ulysses as winding lines of text that bend and warp as you touch them. You have to unravel the jumbled sentences, like a chain necklace that’s been piled on a table, and then match individual words in that sentence to the same word in another sentence that appears on the screen.
The idea is to both force people who may not want to read Ulysses to actually interact with the text in some way and to replicate the act of reading. What is reading, after all, besides unraveling new sentences and matching them with existing ones?