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Friday Night Without A Drink

DVD hawker: I got Superman, X-Men III, all high quality.
Guy: Those are illegal! You're stealing from me. I'm a writer.
DVD hawker: What? Did you write any of these?
Guy: You're selling illegal goods. I'm a writer. You're stealing from me!
DVD hawker: If you wrote any of these movies, you wouldn't be riding the subway.

--Uptown E train

Overheard in New York


This week has been a bit skint on content, and that might continue for the next month, I'm afraid. I've been busy working my way through Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth, so you know it goes. Of course, I've said this before, then returned the next day with a week worth of solid blogging.

I'm enjoying my time with Twenty-Six, really. It feels good in me and, right now, at least, that's a fine feeling to have. I'm going through the seven stages of writing, beginning with What Am I Doing?, to Fuck You! It's Frustration and now I'm sitting somewhere in Knowing And Feeling Good. I suspect that soon it will be the Return of Doubt, What Will the Editor Say, Who Will Buy This? and then, finally, Take It Away! I'm Sick of It! Sick! but why dwell on this? It's going well tonight, and it's nice to be able to write something like Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth, knowing you've got the support of your publisher, and that she's supporting you even as you stop making any sense in the emails you send.

Outside that, I've been thinking, in the last couple of days, about how experimental fiction can distance the reader from it. The comment was brought up in the post on Danielewski's Only Revolutions, and it's a fair one. A lot of experimental writing is, by its nature, about playing with the traditional form of prose on the page, or playing with language, and it draws attention to the new form. Burgess' A Clockwork Orange is a good example of experimentation with language, and while I do quite like the book, I have to admit that I don't respond to it in an emotional way; whereas, in the case of Danielewski's House of Leaves, I do connect with it emotionally. Now, everyone is going to connect differently, and that's cool, but I do wish my brain was a bit more awake so I could think of less obvious examples.

But I've been thinking about that emotion, and I don't know that I've got anything to say--some people are either going to pick up on that, and some people aren't. You can't do a whole lot about that. But I think it's important for the author, when writing, to see it as more than an exercise. Where a lot of frustration comes with experimental work (and yeah, I'm running that word into the ground tonight) is that a lot of it is simply an experiment for the author. They're testing something out. They're playing with form. It's an intellectual, not emotional, exercise.

Something in that, I think.

Comments

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ex_chrisbil
Jul. 28th, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC)
Heh. One Friday night in The Coach, back when I still worked in film (of a sort) we had the DVD guy come in. He starts toutin' and then I (drunkely) yell "we all work in film, you're in the wrong 'king place!"

He ran so quick. Thing is, we probably would have bought stuff 'cos we were so poorly paid by those tight-fisted bastards... thus adding to the problem? Vicious circle, I guess...
experimeditor
Jul. 28th, 2006 03:16 pm (UTC)
The elusive golden mean in the experimental realm is to work the form in a way that enhances emotional impact. That said, most of my experimentation aims at providing focus for the reader, drawing them into the ouvre of the piece by its form as much as by its content. The goal, I think, is not to obfuscate, but to elucidate. It's about using the form to include, rather than feeding the author's ego and excluding readers. That's how I approach my experimentation, anyway. And the fact that it is "experimental" implies that there will be some success and some failure . . .
benpeek
Jul. 29th, 2006 05:40 am (UTC)
And the fact that it is "experimental" implies that there will be some success and some failure . . .

yeah, very much so. i think a lot of people tend to miss that there's an element of just falling flat and leaving a giant mess. hopefully it's not all that often (and hopefully, even less so once published), but it's very much part of it.
experimeditor
Jul. 29th, 2006 05:47 am (UTC)
Like any failed experiment, though, there are likely to be interesting by-products that can be developed later. At least that's been my experience.
benpeek
Jul. 29th, 2006 05:52 am (UTC)
yeah, that's been my experience, too. little thoughts. ideas. though i must admit, i rarely go back to a piece, or reuse a bit of a piece, if it ends up falling apart on me. i tend to just start from scratch.
experimeditor
Jul. 29th, 2006 06:09 am (UTC)
Interesting. Some of my crumbs have turned into entire stories.

And my novel has emerged from the ashes of a short story that didn't quite turn out as good as I thought it had on first blush. In hindsight, I definitely had the wrong scope.

But that has little to do with experimentalism.
benpeek
Jul. 29th, 2006 06:45 am (UTC)
i always tell myself i should. but it's like, if i've used it once, it ceases to interest me. i even keep the files, but they remain unopened, sitting at the back like old jars of vegemite.
experimeditor
Jul. 29th, 2006 02:01 pm (UTC)
Well, my old crumbs of ideas usually mutate, grow, change shape - like old piles of vegemite.
ex_benpayne119
Jul. 29th, 2006 01:21 am (UTC)
I agree, and to me that's what separates experimental writing that's "interesting" from experimental writing that really works... I think some readers do get excited by form for its own sake, but I think the majority prefer an emotional in. I know I do, anyway...
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