For our experimental prose workshop at The Poetry Project November 9, we will start with an informal discussion of issues that come up for many working in this field. And you may well have others to contribute:
— Why still do narrative at all if it seems narrative should be thwarted or cut up or diverted to be relevant today? Is it possible to both do and undo at once, in the writing, if what we mean by narrative is working something through?
— Can one experiment meaningfully with narrative without seriously breaking up structural components of the novel form ?
— How necessary is it for radical formal work on narrative to be driven by radical political impulse?
It is interesting to look at Renee Gladman’s way of posing the question: I hadn’t wanted to think abut narrative at the same time that I was thinking of my body lying in the object world. She poses this as an issue of space. As she puts it: was it possible to say something was gathering outside of a thing with the intention of meeting something else when this something else was the larger space in which the first thing existed.
Another formally experimental work that I think proposes answers to several of the above questions is Antwerp by Roberto Bolaño, a book he wrote at the age of 27, but which was not published until just before his death and about which he said: Antwerp is the only novel that does not embarrass me. The novel is a series of sections comprised of amazing poetically disjunct sentences. At first, though it is beautiful to read, it is hard to grasp the impulses that hold it together. But they are there and once grasped, the reward is an amazing prism of a total moment in time.
For this workshop, it would be useful to read some or all of Renée’s The Event Factory; and some or all of Antwerp. The more you read these books the more you will find they are gifts that keep on giving.
I would also suggest that you circulate among the others slated to attend the workshop a page of prose, or 2 at the absolute limit, double spaced, that raise one or some of your specific issues with the question of writing experimental prose.