Goldsmiths Prize app (Part 1) – Eimear McBride section

Interactive McBride, eh? Well, I couldn’t resist – it’s not procrastination if it’s about a prizewinner’s archives, right? The app itself is pretty slick: it’s simple enough, with sections detailing the Prize’s past winners, shortlistees, and judges, and a fantasy section where a bunch of older texts that might have been in the running had the Prize been around longer are listed – there’s links to iBooks for most of the books, and some video recordings of short readings, including McBride herself and this year’s winner, Mike McCormack (check out our review of Solar Bones). It’s not ram-packed with content, but I’d imagine they’ll build it up over time, and the two featured sections – McBride’s and Ali Smith’s – seem like the showcases for what’s to come. So, then: onto McBride and ‘Becoming A Girl’…

Again, it’s pretty simple: the gist is, you get a glimpse of some of McBride’s early draft image1.PNGmaterial for A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing – that is, a handful of both scanned handwritten sheets and printouts annotated by McBride – along with a minimal amount of contextual commentary (‘Compare this beginning with the opening paragraph of the published novel’) to show you how she might have moved towards the finished version. It’s a neat glimpse into the genesis of the work – it’s possible to see how her syntax shifted, how the prose tightened during the writing process, and, along the way, how the character of the titular girl took shape. What’s nice about it isn’t entirely the idea of development itself (we know books change, we know writers edit things) but the way the app’s creators have managed to replicate theimage4.PNG feel of archival research. The scanned images are almost tangible on the iPad screen – the proportions feel right, like we’re holding McBride’s notebooks – and the integration of the commentary is unobtrusive and easy to navigate: the interactive sections are lightly marked in blue, and a click brings up a superimposed detail with associated annotations, and a swipe brings you to the next ‘page’ of the virtual manuscript. I didn’t check it out on the iPhone – I’m sure it’s not a bad experience, but the content of this particular feature does feel particularly well-suited to the tablet, much as it’s easer to read just about anything on the larger (book-like) screen. If I was to get tetchy about the app, I wouldn’t ask them to change what was actually there, but to add more bells and whistles: audio recordings of the writer linked to the annotated segments, a Q&A on the featured edits, maybe simply more image5.PNGof what’s already on offer (for instance, we get the beginning; could we also see an early version of the end?). The look and feel of the package is excellent, and the content is interesting, and it’s great that it’s exclusive to the app – there’s just not all that much of it. I was left feeling slightly as if I’d seen an excellent preview, and now I wanted access to the rest. Again, though, I’m assuming it’s all a work in progress as far as the population of the app as a whole goes – I’d hope to see more extensive features in the future, but this is a pretty good start, and what’s particularly promising, if the McBride/Smith double-hander is any indication, is that they’re trying to keep things interesting by not resorting to the same-old same-old gimmicks for each featured book.

Tomorrow we’ll be hearing from Fran Slater who reviewed the Ali Smith part of the app. You can find out more about the Goldsmiths Prize app here.



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