Saint Simon's Saw

by Samuel Thomson


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Kinda Brilliant, Kinda Bad, December 6, 2020
by Joey Acrimonious
Related reviews: IFComp 2020

Saint Simonís Saw is a digitized tarot reading, except instead of traditional tarot cards, it has its own proprietary deck, drawing upon eclectic influences. Crucially, in addition to the ultimate reading of a hand, each card has an easily-accessible in-game explanation, which is where the bulk of the writing is to be found.

The tone of the work is singular and fascinating. Itís an interactive fortune-telling experience, but with the soul of an undergradís hastily-written essay, fuelled by coffee and Wikipedia summaries of post-structuralist screeds. There are inconsistently-styled citations of scholars like Jo Freeman and Paulo Freire, but no bibliographyÖ and the citations themselves are basically frivolous, as if theyíve been inserted solely for the sake of name-dropping or because some professor demanded that there needed to be x number of citations. There are points where hugely creative and insightful ideas are touched upon, but these are counterbalanced by vague discursions, obscurantist writing, and nonsensical metaphors. Thereís also a ton of misspellings and grammatical errors (including inconsistency over whether the work is titled Saint Simonís Saw or Saint-Simonís Saw), which altogether give the impression of something that may have been translated from French into English. And itís all packed into a smooth-running executable with some lovely illustrations.

To an extent, Iím not sure what to make of this, because Iím profoundly unsure where it falls on the scale of sincerity versus irony. As far as Iím concerned, this could be an ambitious but flawed attempt at something sublime; or a straight-up joke; or anywhere in-between. This quality makes Saint Simonís Saw perplexing and mystifying.

But this confusion plays into the strange enjoyment I got from the experience. The thing is, it works well enough as both an earnest piece and an ironic one. Thereís enough thought-provoking content to grab my interest in spite of all the rough bits. But thereís also enough rough bits to make me laugh in spite of the thought-provoking parts.

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samuelthomson, January 3, 2021 - Reply
Hello Joey Acrimonious,

I appreciated your description of Saint Simon's Saw as "singular and fascinating", can I use that in promotional material? I would also accept "Kinda Brilliant, Kinda Bad".

I will be re-writing some of this for a mobile release, and so it's helpful to know that the quotes/citations were something that you thought needed work. Perhaps these need a bit more context to explain why they are attached to particular cards, as there are very specific reasons in all cases. Partly I wanted to create something like a tarot deck, but fastened more closely to a specific intellectual milieu. Maybe a proper system of citation or a "further reading" page is worth thinking about.

I'm interested by the rumination over my motivations, whether they're sincere or more oblique, because some of my favorite works leave me wondering the same, I get that from Salvador Dali, and from my favorite writer, Thomas Nashe. I think it's a good sign, and it possibly stems from trying to fit too many favorite and eclectic things into a project, from building one thing out of the scraps of others, or else simply having a good time with the work, watching it evolve and become surprising.
Joey Acrimonious, January 4, 2021 - Reply
By all means, feel free to quote any part of my review. Good luck with the mobile release!
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