When I first heard the premise behind Chopsticks, I admit I was intrigued despite my better judgment. As a stalwart herald of print fiction, I have gone on several a rant about the impending danger posed by ereaders and electronic media in general. While Chopsticks doesn’t eschew the print format completely (indeed, it actually makes quite an impressive addition to the coffee table), its incorporation of electronic applications and interactive features, while novel, nonetheless makes me apprehensive.
Still, while reading early reviews, I found enough promise in the idea behind the story itself to put aside my fears concerning format. Chopsticks is a story told entirely through pictures. Though readers will find some text throughout in the forms of photographs of letters, instant message conversations, pamphlets and the like, the narrative is driven entirely through visuals. One might wonder if there is, in fact,
much narrative to be found with the reading material being so very limited. Yet reviews assured me that not only was the story Anthony and Corral managed to convey compelling, but it was not at all what it seemed and would require multiple rereads (as it were).
Now, being the spoiler-hound that I am, I simply had to go snooping until I had found out the much talked about twist, which wound up being sort of a catch-22 situation. On the one hand, finding out the surprise ending made my decision to track down a copy complete. While I won’t give away the ending, I will say that it incorporated one of my favorite issues to read about and so secured my interest in the story. On the other hand, it turns out that, stripped of the visceral impact that must result upon learning of the twist for yourself, the pictures simply couldn’t carry the weight of the narrative. In all fairness, a large portion of the blame has to be placed on my own shoulders; I’ll never know what it would have been like to experience the story the way in which it was clearly meant to be experienced. For that reason, take my rating with a grain of salt and the advice to find out the ending for yourself.
Still, I can’t help but feel that, even had I waited to discover the surprise ending for myself, I probably wouldn’t have been all that impressed with Chopsticks. The photographs themselves are not that special; they resemble the pictures I’m constantly snapping on Instagram moreso than professionally photographed art pieces. I will give props where they are due, for Anthony and Corral execute a nice bait-and-switch with their cover that promises a lighthearted love story; once you start to delve into the book, it soon becomes clear that, no matter what revelations the story ultimately might hold, this is no mere romantic comedy. Unfortunately, while I believe that Anthony and Corral came up with a good concept, it simply didn’t command enough impact as it played out. There’s a reason why people crave a good book. We want escapism, we want catharsis, but most importantly, we want insight, depth, something to analyze and absorb. A picture might say a thousand words, but it turns out that that’s just not enough to replace a novel.
While I’ll give points for innovation in the authors’ use of interactive media such as YouTube videos that actually play, I really don’t think that purchasing the ebook version or the app is necessary to achieve the desired experience. For those readers who really want to immerse themselves in the events as they unfold, they can easily type the url address into their web browser and find the videos that way rather than paying additional money simply for the ease of pressing a hotlink. I’m glad that I gave Chopsticks a chance, but it’s just not for me. I’ll gladly stick to my print books and hope that many other readers continue to love the feel of a book in their hand instead of a tablet.