As I’m currently steeped in thinking about the theory-practice paradigm, what strikes me about The Lost Origin (Matilde Asensi, 2013) is that it straddles the line – or perhaps attempts to – between the popular press and academic or technical writing. I’m speaking conceptually rather than narratively: the book is obviously out to tell us something, as all books are, but what it has to say sits beside the narrative. Displacement, in fact, becomes the theme of the text, in the way that Arnau is perhaps displaced (in South America) or is in the process of displacement (his relationship to technology elaborated on in the beginning). Displacement, also, in its insistence on a kind of displaced reality.
Knowing only little about the author, I hope I might still make some conjectures based on the book itself. The Lost Origin reads like an academic attempting to write fiction (whether it’s a success in its attempt is almost irrelevant). I think there is something to be learned from displacing real-world information – the “nonfiction” studies of the sciences – into a fictional setting, just as the arts and its “fiction” studies (and I’m gesturing toward film studies) operate within the codes of operational reality. The Lost Origin‘s use of deep description and what verges on educational diatribe pack nonfictive epistemes on top of fictive forms, much like well-researched historical fiction. [One could argue that all epistemes are nonfictive – let’s not today.] This might operate in an undergraduate class whose subject is far from literature or fiction-focused fields in a number of ways, or at least a few come to mind: 1) It might inject some real-world critical thinking into the process of media consumption, i.e. the novel works within fiction or on the border of fiction to delineate that border in the way that media literacy requires an understanding of the production and interpretation of media as different. Recognizing the uncanny valley between operational reality and the fictional sum of its parts that becomes a book like The Lost Origin is a lesson in critical discovery – it’s an abstracting force that pressures us in to a critical examination of what’s being said. 2) As I eluded to above, the book might also abstract the hard sciences (i.e. computer science) just enough to generate some creativity on the part of the reader. It can either make accessible what wouldn’t be otherwise (/make consumable some otherwise dry material) or allow for re-imaginations on the part of more advanced readers. 3) Finally, related to the other uses I just outlined, The Lost Origin can be a lesson in storytelling – not its storytelling, per se, but storytelling in general. Say anything about the book, it re•minds us of the power of narrative, the rhetorical significance a narrative can have “[i]n all that sea of useless information” (Asensi, location 1246 in kindle edition).