Friday Fiction: Mad Scientists or Experimental Fiction by Alex Snider

I write this lazily and as someone who isn't even sure she likes experimental fiction. Sure my favourite novel is on this list; Pale Fire, a novel which I will probably read a dozen or so times throughout my life (WHERE DID YOU LEAVE THE CROWN JEWELS, CHARLES??!). But aside from that the only other I've read is To The Lighthouse (and parts of Infinite Jest, which I started at quite possibly the worst time in a person's life to read about suicidal people). I am reading a Calvino right now, although not the one listed (If On a Winter's Night, A Traveler) and I am really digging it. And oddly enough, some of my favourite music is pretty experimental (Johnny Greenwood, Man Man, Einstürzende Neubauten). Same goes for movies and TV and visual art; I love it when creators messes with form and challenges expectations.

So what's up with my prickliness when it comes to novels? I don't know, guys. All I demand (ha) or desire in a novel, in any art form really, is that it's enjoyable. Experimental fiction can be enjoyable (absolutely! Pale Fire!) but it just has that extra hurdle. I don't particularly want to read something just because the author tried something difficult and deserves props for that effort even if it didn't work and took away from the story (if there even is a story *cough* Finnegan's Wake *cough*). Nope, I want to read something that the author knew worked, had hir expectations in check. I'm a believer in restraint. If experimental fiction works then you get Nabokov and Calvino. If it doesn't you can end up with a bit of a mess. But I guess my aversion could also just be chalked up to jealousy/discomfort over the extravagance use of imagination. That's not how I write!

That said, there are tonnes of books on this list that I do want to read, so I guess discount this whole rant? It is 7 am. Shit.

(So, I have an assignment due in today, 2 essays due in a week and a half, an exam smack dab in the middle and part of a novel due Monday. Hence why I'm just listing a whole whack of novels without any individual write ups whatsoever. It hurts my heart to do so...)

House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
Life and Opionions of Tristam Shandy by Laurence Sterne
The Voyeur by Alain Robbe-Grillet
The Outsider by Albert Camus
Atrocity Exhibition by JD Ballard
The Soft Machine by William Burroughs
Hannibal Lector, My Father by Kathy Acker
Imaginations by William Carlos Williams
Collected Prose by Robert Creeley
Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things by Gilbert Sorrentino
Life: A Manual by Georges Perec
Finnigan's Wake by James Joyce
The Journalist by Harry Mathews
How German is it? by Walter Abish
Revenge of the Lawn by Richard Brautigan
Anticipation by Frederick Te Castle
Rubicon Beach by Steve Erickson
This is not a Novel by David Markson
End of the Story by Lydia Davis
At Swim Two Birds by Flann O'Brian
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
The Museum at Purgatory by Nick Bantock
The Power Book by Jeanette Winterson
Flounder by Günter Grass
Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino
People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia
The Dead Father by Donald Bartheleme
Betrayals by Charles Palliser
To Do: Alphabets and Birthdays by Gertrude Stein
Hopscotch by Julio Cortázor
Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Have a great weekend, everyone! Follow in the footsteps of these greats and try something new! Like, I don't know, boogie boarding or laughing differently. Mix it up; challenge expectations! 


When Alex Snider has a lot on her plate she procrastinates by writing half-assed Friday Fictions. This originally appeared on her blog. Follow her on Twitter.


James said...

I'm just going to drop in here to strongly, strongly recommend Joseph McElroy. As someone who has spent a great deal of time flirting with dense, mammoth prose, I'm still consistently bowled over by his sheer ambition and how he so miraculously straddles the line between capital-D difficult and just insanely, jaw-droppingly beautiful. I've read Lookout Cartridge, PLUS, and am exactly a quarter of the way through the 1200-page Women and Men, but to say my mind will never be the same again is an understatement. A few favourite samplings:

"But at the end when the elbows and hands and bottom and knees came free, slip, blip, grind no bump – and she only much later thought of the gunk draining out then, and nothing seemed to matter except the glistening baby that was younger than last month and was a baby beyond boy or girl, beyond not before, and then without strangeness nothing at all for quite a long moment seemed to matter – or be between them – not even the baby was was O.K., she’d looked at her husband behind the young doctor’s hands and she found tears on her husband’s seedy unshaven cheeks, tears from the wonderful vagueness in his eyes and on his forehead too, as if he had wept uptward into his thick, bristly hair. But later she remembered what she could remember, as if she might have receded into her own breathing and part of her was never to be seen again, and knew he told the truth when he said it hurt him to see her in pain, and then she recalled those tears upon his forehead and saw that of course they were sweat. And she knew that while he did not look at her while he waited down there between her legs with the doctor, the tears that he could not keep from running out onto his face were not only for his daughter, because they did not – she was sure, she was sure – fill up his eyes and drop onto his skin until suddenly he had looked up past the appearing baby to look her in the eye – us, us – as he had not been able to down there at the end of the delivery table before now." (Women and Men, p. 7)

"Elsewhere in a broad-based effort to recycle, they’ve started without us, and we need to get over there, as if not there already bringing our prestressed flange units in postponement of perhaps pain, whatever new pain is. What, though, have they started? A woman looks forward and backward to have a baby naturally with her husband; elsewhere, another does the same if she only knew it, and meanwhile lies incarnate in a motel bed near Cape Kennedy hearing from her new lover, who does not dream, dream-like memories murmured till she can’t stay awake no more no more; elsewhere, a man tries to hear what his new lover instructs him to hear, like a third party between them – news to him. Oh, these people, many more, are sharply felt yet minimally known, of an articulate community that is our representative blood but, like inmost organs and habits, unknown to us or word we bring sealed by the sender, whose parting words were that there is no neutral messenger." (Women and Men, p. 38)

"The touch of her smell was all over him. She was closer than ever. Ripples over him were less his looseness of skin than the girl herself, dissolved toward him to preserve him, preserve even that comparitive looseness of skin that was, well, mainly in the mind, skin which tightened into laughter: he was arriving inside himself, he was joyously guffawing so the warm-water kisser fish and the long cold shark and the doppler-headed dolphin heard him bubble melodiously down through his system coded words - My lady preservative!" (Women and Men, p. 97-98)

James said...

That should be "dense, mammoth works of prose". Silly!

Alex Snider said...

Thanks for the recommendation, James! I haven't heard much about him but these excepts are really intriguing. (And sorry it took a zillion months to respond to your comment.)

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