The Pickle Index
With few exceptions, the e-book has yet to evolve into much more than a print book with less heft. But what if it were something else entirely? What if it took full advantage of its format to rethink the conventions of storytelling? Eli Horowitz, the former publisher of McSweeney’s, and Russell Quinn, its former digital media director, tackled this question in 2012 with The Silent History, a novel in app form about an epidemic that robbed children of their ability to use language. Now they have revisited the issue with The Pickle Index, a weirdly comic novel about, well, pickles. Specifically, about a totalitarian dystopia in which everyone has to eat pickles—and like it.
The Pickle Index is told in three forms (four if you count the Kindle edition): a conventional paperback book, a lavishly illustrated two-volume hardcover that tells the story from two distinct points of view, and a digital app that purports to be the actual, government-decreed Pickle Index in question, a recipe-exchange network that itself tells a story. With the books you are, as Horowitz has put it, “a human in the real world, reading”; the app puts you inside the story you would otherwise be reading about, providing what he calls “the thrill of discovery.” A word of warning about the recipes, however: Don’t.