Time as an Image
Humans have five basic senses: hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and seeing. It is through these senses that we observe, gather information, and ultimately, learn. Sometimes, we are able to take images by means of sight, and interpret them as more than just a simple visual. Images inscribed in literature helps readers to better understand the meaning and theme of the work more so than text alone. In TOC, a multimedia novel by Steve Tomasula, images and text work together to create an effectively intriguing and philosophical story of the creation of time and its connection to the world and those living in it.
The most prominent image in TOC is glass, as it is inscribed in almost every portion of the text. The instruments on the very first “page” are made of glass, the scrolls of text that pop up as bars are clicked in Logos are displayed in a glass globe, and the hourglasses described in the story of Ephemera, the creator of the difference engine, are also made of glass. Being a very fragile material by origin, glass must be handled with extreme care and thoughtfulness, much like time. As the idea of “time” becomes more prominent throughout TOC, the more careful humans realize they have to be with it. For example, in the Chronos section of TOC, a model becomes pregnant by her brother as her husband suffers from a coma as a result of a car accident and is only alive by means of life support. She is then stuck in a moment in time where she must decide to kill the child so as to keep her modeling job to pay for her husband's medical expenses, or to kill her husband to pay for the child. Her decision becomes a nine month battle against time, which cannot stop or slow down, and for this reason leaves her with a feeling of helplessness. Similarly, in the story of Ephemera, every human is fighting time to stay alive. Their fingernails become hourglasses and “within each nail ran a sand” (Logos, TOC.) that had to be balanced day...