Monday, June 27, 2016

Experimental Novels Part I


Ask anyone and they will tell you that I am fascinated with process in writing and in order to understand the way we write, we have to understand that we can find specific reasons or connections to the choices we make. From names of characters to motivation to plot, process is important. The more I can identify some reason and function for my choices, the more I understand where I am going and why. That being said, one of my favorite topics to read, research, and share is my love of experimental novels. And in order to really understand why it matters at all, we have to define what they are and why they differ from other novels. And then, by looking at some novels that I consider experimental, it will also help find characteristics that are relevant in watching the evolution of experimental novels and ideas over the years. This series is part book review (of experimental novels), part idea building, and part process discussion. So, it won't always feel like the typical blog post. Sometimes, it will feel like a hyper-focused discussion about one book. Other times, it will talk more broadly. And sometimes, it will be connections and random thoughts. If you would like to share your ideas, feelings, or refer books - I would be happy. The comment sections will be open for that purpose. 

I will post a working list of experimental novels HERE, as a shared document. Feel free to add your favorites. 

Experimental isn't cutting edge. In fact, experimental novels of the past paved the way for how we consider the novel now. Even a common high school literary experience like Moby Dick by Hermann Melville might be considered experimental at the time. The experimental novel isn't new. In fact, all innovations in novel writing were and are considered experimental. Some are more pronounced, but they all have fed into the discussion that will be evolving here on this website, through the sources, and through other connections. In looking at some titles, it will be necessary to put the novel into historical context. What was happening in the world around the book? What was the author thinking? Why this experimental concept at this moment? And what did it mean? 

Perhaps any artist that attempts to find the edges of their craft will eventually consider some kind of experimentation or variation on what is considered the normal balance of art expectations. Often, experimentation with poetry, paints, and other modes of art feel like they absorb and use experimentation as a constant in their understanding of the craft. While the novel, stands in a slow pattern of change. Forever on the edge of extinction, the novel moves through slower changes. And I don't think the heralding of the long form's untimely death has ever done anything but strengthen its resolve to continue forward. In the last twenty years, I've posed the idea that the novel isn't dying or even in elder care - but changing into things that don't make sense to critics and literary crepe hangers. It is believing the television will never change, only to find everyone talking about a show on Netflix, that thing you didn't subscribe too because it seemed like a scam. Perhaps then, the novel will change with the technology, change with the vision a future forged in strife and chaos rather than bucolic suburban dreams that disappeared shortly after the second invasion of the Iraq. The novel might be on the move. It might be expanding. But until we use some of our tools and innovate their use on experimental texts, we will never really understand the edges of the novel world. That is my goal to discuss, view, and understand where the novel has been in terms of experimentation and evolution so that we can innovate and embrace the new vision of novel writing, style, and process involved in continuing his vast and stunning legacy in letters. 


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