A young friend who was at a social event with me last year, listening to me going on about something-or-other grinned and said “I’ve never heard someone interrupt his own story to tell another story.” My brother and two oldest sons were present, who shrugged and told him this is normal Wyman behavior, just more pronounced with me. I have been known to let the kite string out longer than that, interrupting a first digression with a second before reeling it in. I choose my audience for this, and it requires a fair bit of drama and expression to accomplish this. One’s face, hands, and all the tricks of tone and volume are rather like punctuation. I do voices, too.
My writing is similar, with parentheses, italics, capitalisations, enhanced punctuation, and footnotes. I keep speaking in asides. One would think I would be using hyperlinks more. I have some sense that I prefer to keep everything on one page. I know from my own experience that if one follows a hyperlink, it might be a while before the hyperlink tree is finished, and I like everyone to pay attention to the little thought I started from. I wonder who among the essay-writers of a previous era would take to hyperlinking. CS Lewis makes so many references to authors, eras, and hundreds of works that I think he might have liked it, allowing him to include a level of precision in his references that would be lengthy otherwise. On the other hand, it might have slowed him up, painstakingly linking to an entire semester’s worth of reading in every introduction.
Yet reading with hyperlinks is a joy for me. I can follow or not as I choose. Sometimes just knowing that there is a deeper explanation or a full example is enough for me to go on. For example, in many areas of study everyday words have a specific meaning in the field: Interference, depression, culture, voluntary. I ran across the word “starlike” in a discussion of population expansion. The mere fact that it was hyperlinked told me that it was a term of art for those in the field, rather than a flight of poetic fancy from that particular author. I had never seen it, but guessed at its meaning, which was confirmed in the next few sentences. I didn’t need to click the link, but it was helpful that the link was there. At other times a hyperlink is necessary for me, as I am not quite such what the author means.
Or it just looks like a fun digression. There’s that, too. I can get lost in Wikipedia for a couple of hours quite easily.