May 29, 2016

Experiments in Text

Lance Olsen writes experimental fiction.  He teaches this form at the University of Utah.  He's interested in theory and has explored in his writing hypermedia text.

Using structured collage, he creates books from assembled small text units that he calls narraticules. These small, finely written paragraphs of about five sentences are building blocks and can create interesting juxtapositions and provide polyphonic effects.

In Olsen's book,  Head in Flames, he uses these units to reflect shifts in voices, time periods, and consciousness.   Changes in font are used as well.  Readers can read the work in a linear fashion, or in a horizontal fashion (following the same font).

 He's interested in remixing other writers' texts in the form of quotation, saying he likes "how it cuts up and cuts off what it’s quoting, and by doing so releases new meanings and contexts that can and do surprise author as well as reader.

His work reminded me of the Piglia's: "Theses on the Short Story."  Piglia focused on story within a story in short forms.  Olsen works in long forms, and he brings together disparate elements in interesting ways.  In "A Long Note on New Narrative" by Robert Glück identifies and defines a method of literary practice termed New Narrative:
We were thinking about autobiography; by autobiography we meant daydreams, night dreams, the act of writing, the relationship to the reader, the meeting of flesh and culture, the self as collaboration, the self as disintegration, the gaps, inconsistencies and distortions, the enjambments of power, family, history and language.
The new hybrid writing, reflected recently in Claudia Rankine's Citizen and Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts, offers an engaging, elastic form that appeals to the way we think these days.  Some say we have a new brain, influenced by the internet and its devices.  All of us in the culture have attention that is further and further divided, and all of us must face complex and developing tensions and rifts in our growing population. This new narrative form provides ways to bring forward multiple threads: history, memoir, philosophy, art, and what-have-you.

In an interview published in Rain Taxi, Lance talks about his influences and forms.
Push yourself. Take chances. Remain curious. Remain crazy. Don’t do the same thing twice. Try to fail in interesting ways. Ask yourself: what forms and fictions comprise the realism our culture understands? Don’t rescript yesterday. Always write what you want to read, not what you think others do. Don’t compromise. Realize if you’ve got an answer, chances are you’re not a writer. Realize, along with John Cage, that you shouldn’t be frightened of new ideas; it’s the old ones that should scare you. Realize, along with T. S. Eliot, that only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. Reach out and support other writers. Realize you write because you don’t know what you think until you do, and then you know it even less. Understand this writing thing isn’t a competition; all of us can win all the time. Think of yourself as part of an oceanic conversation about life and narrative that extends across time and space, and ask yourself where your voice fits in, how you can help other voices be heard. And if you plan to write for fame or fortune, do something else immediately. Seriously.
As I explore my own presentation of new work, to be published in a transmedia form, I find his thoughts useful.  Instead of narraticule, I consider the building blocks to be stanzaic. I too want to avoid linear readings, preferring a multi-verse in which the reader chooses his or her own path.  I want to express the process of this new work.

For the interview with Lance Olsen:

For notes about multiverse stanzas in transmedia:

May 24, 2016

Casting More Than One Shadow

Mary Oliver has described poetry as writing that casts more than one shadow.  By this phrase, she refers to the way that poems can yield more than one meaning. Recently, I found a corollary regarding short stories by Ricardo Piglia.

A short story [cuento] always tell two stories [historias].  In the classic short story, there is a visible story that has another secret story embedded inside of it. At the end, the secret story comes to the surface, producing an effect of surprise.  The two stories often operate with two different "systems of casuality."  The key elements function for both the presenting and the secret story.  The modern short story, according to Piglia, "abandons the surprise ending and the closed structure; it works the tension between the two stories without ever resolving it, telling "two stories as if they were one."  

Piglia, Ricardo.  "Theses on the Short Story."  New Left Review 70. 2011.

May 9, 2016

About Writing

“Something is always born of excess,” Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary in June of 1945.  “Great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”

“A word after a word after a word is power.”
—Margaret Atwood

"Writing is really a way of thinking — not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet."
—Toni Morrisson

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”
—Anaïs Nin

"Poetry isn’t a profession; it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that."
—Mary Oliver