Recently, the art museum in our city had a Choose Your Own Adventure night. It made me reminisce about reading choose-your-own-adventure books when I was young.
I preferred the ones with a sci-fi adventure plot, the only frustration being that most of my choices led to the inevitable death of my character at the tentacles a horrific space monster; no more choices, only the big, bold phrase YOU ARE DEAD. THE END.
If you enjoy Choose-your-own-adventure books, GO TO PARAGRAPH 1. If you hate them GO TO PARAGRAPH 2. If you have never read one, GO TO PARAGRAPH 8.
Choose-your-own-adventure is so exciting! There are so many different outcomes and, as the cover proclaims, it is the story “where YOU are in control!” This is appealing for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fun of reading it repeatedly and attempting to find the most satisfactory plot that doesn’t end in dying. No more must we suffer the deaths of beloved characters, on the world of choose-your-own, we must simply retrace our steps and Hamlet is alive again. We are the masters of history and our choices truly define the course of the universe. I always suspected I had this sort of power, but it is nice when it is confirmed by paperback fiction.
If, when you read Choose-your-own-adventure, you systematically read through every plot from the beginning GO TO PARAGRAPH 3. If you only go back to the last choice and follow from there, GO TO PARAGRAPH 4. If you read it cover to cover without following the paragraph directions, GO TO PARAGRAPH 7.
There is good reason to hate these books. They are terrible. They’re incredibly frustrating and never fulfill the expectations we have for them. The cover promises fun but the writing never delivers. These books are the carnival games of the publishing industry, the ring toss game in which the ring is too small to fit over the prize, the day at Six Flags that is secretly a parental trap to make you stand in lines and be hot and miserable, the ski-ball game at Chuck-E-Cheese that only spits out enough tickets for a plastic dinosaur that doesn’t even glow in the dark. There aren’t enough bookmarks in the world to keep track of the plotlines and the story never seems to end satisfactorily.
If you hate them because you don’t like re-reading the same story repeatedly in order to find different plot twists towards the end, GO TO PARAGRAPH 5. If you hate them because you don’t really want to choose anything at all and think the author is lazy, GO TO PARAGRAPH 6.
If you do this, let’s get honest for a moment, isn’t it tremendously boring? What are your motivations for doing so? Do you also re-watch favorite movies endlessly and laugh at the same joke? These questions aren’t adversarial, I truly want to know. To me, there aren’t enough nuances in this type of writing to bear even a single repeated reading. I find no meaning in this.
You are stuck in a waking nightmare akin to Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence. You will never truly die, but you will repeatedly go mad and kiss a horse. THE END
This is what I would always do. The real problem is figuring out how far back to go and how to arrange your fingers so as to save enough pages. The first branch in the plot is easy but going further than that the branches keep coming and it quickly becomes confusing to retrace your steps. I have never actually read all of the plots in one of these books. For a person who will read a terrible novel to the bitter end simply because I started it and it hurts my brain to quit, choose-your-own adventure is psychologically devastating. There is a reason that this essay is a memory prompted by a current event that I refused to attend; I have not recently read a choose-your-own-adventure and have no plans to do so. That would be crazy. And I’m not crazy?
You have lost Ariadne’s thread and are eaten by the Minotaur. Either that or you are stuck at the end of Inception watching Leonardo DiCaprio spin that insipid top. In the end it’s all the same. THE END
Who does? This seems to me a version of literary hell, kind of like the teen-lit section at the library. It is an exceedingly dull chore that is nevertheless compelled upon a conscientious reader because if you skip any part of the book, what did you miss? Maybe a moment of artistic genius? Many of us, I suspect, will stick with a bad novel because it is worse to live with the sense of incompleteness caused by abandoning it than it is to slog through to the bitter end and at least have a sense of closure. The choose-your-own-adventure genre does not allow closure; there is existential angst here in spades.
You have chosen to read Gravity’s Rainbow instead of a choose-your-own-adventure. Good try, but you are still driven insane. THE END
This is a highly compelling argument. We depend on authors to tell us a story. Stories have a narrative that many writers describe as hurtling along by its own, internal logic and the job of the author is to clear out the white noise, listen to the characters, and write. The characters essentially demand that they be allowed to accomplish certain actions or speak certain bits of dialogue. The role of the author is to tell that story; the one, specific story. It seems to me that an author who allows for any number of contradictory, parallel universes to exist in which the characters cannot make up their minds about what to do devalues the characters the very concept of story itself. I don’t know why we should pay for the privilege of doing the author’s work! Throw this book in the garbage and start in on War and Peace.
Like Prince Andrey, you have learned to patiently await your fate. Spoiler: It is Napoleon and a very aggressive, very cold French Army. Don’t worry, they’re here to “liberate” you. THE END
I’m not sure how you made it to this paragraph.
You are Neo and you see through the matrix. You should have chosen the red pill and remained happy. Just don’t watch the sequels or the illusion will be shattered. THE END
You aren’t missing anything. You live happily ever after. THE END