On Non-Traditional Narrative

A Dialectic in Defense of Experimental Narratives through the Study of Slaughterhouse-Five and Paris Peasant

by
Daulton Dickey.

Some writers adore narrative convention. They stick to the algorithm without deviation. Others deviate only slightly. Other writers still incorporate radical deviation into conventional narrative algorithms. Then there are writers who eschew convention altogether in order to deconstruct or to dismantle narrative entirely. Each of these groups attempt to add their stamp to fiction or literature in one way or the other. And all have strong opinions on narrative. But which group, which tactic, is right?

The answer shouldn’t startle you: none. Declaring narrative can or should or must only4815205632_632ee48a71_b follow one path is like demanding that all athletes stand during the national anthem. It’s a form of authoritarianism predicated on inculcating and reinforcing conformity. Narratives are fluid, organic, the products of human perception of time. Think of it as water: it can assume the shape of liquid, steam, or ice while still containing water at its core. Continue reading

Life is a Stage, So Why Not Screw with People?

Notes on an Essay Concerning Writing, Performing, and the Nature of Reality
by
Daulton Dickey.

[Author’s Note: This is an unfinished essay I vaguely remember writing, the result, I suspect, of having taken too many meds, which I do by accident from time to time.]

I.

My mind reels. Sometimes I lock myself in my head, in my world, and everything around me—my wife, my kids, my friends and job—vanish. Not literally. Figuratively. Everything slips into the background, sometimes into the deep background. Sometimes the universe transforms into background noise, a sort of visuospatial white noise. Other times, it disappears altogether.

I get so locked into my world, the world mutating and transmutating and exploding in my head, that the world and everything in it almost vanishes.

zoar2A strange sensation: living in my head inside, then going outdoors and feeling as if the world itself is indoors, as if the world is a set constructed inside a planet-sized soundstage. Sometimes, when these sensations inundate me, I glance around—at the ground and the sky, cars and buildings and passersby—and marvel at the corporeality of it all. Of everything.

On occasions, when I’m experiencing these sensations, I ask myself two questions, sometimes in conjunction, sometimes in disjunction:

What is imagination?

What is “reality”?

II.

So I’m sitting in a wheelchair on the corner of an intersection, wearing a plaid shirt, overalls, and sunglasses. I’m hunched over in the chair, not moving. Concentrating on steadying my breath, minimizing the expansion and contraction of my rib cage, trying to render it imperceptible.

Try it. It’s a fascinating study, something akin to sociology. People ignore you when you play dead. They amble or scurry past you. Some glance while others act as though they don’t see you. Some joke while others furrow their eyebrows.

I’d probably sell the death routine if “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees wasn’t blasting from a speaker attached to my phone in my right pocket. Continue reading

Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things (excerpt)

by
Daulton Dickey.

[This is an excerpt from the titular story in the new short story collection, Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things & Other Stories, which is out now.]

1.

Humming fills the air, but it’s the humming of a brain filling gaps exposed by silence. The lights are out. Colors flicker in space–sometimes near the ceiling, sometimes near the floor.

The brain does the math, and this is another case of the brain creating something where something should be.

But listen: the silence. It’s unnerving somehow. Unnatural.

The ceiling throbs. Cracks spiderweb the walls. From these, insects emerge. They’re miniature heads, human heads, crawling on six scrotums. Sperm oozes in their wake. Sadie throws a shoe at the wall and the insects scream and scatter.

She climbs out of bed and peeks outside: a planet-sized eyeball drifts toward a planet-sized eyelid. Twilight. She throws on her robe and taps her skin. It’s still skin. Thank Cruelty. She hasn’t transformed, not like the others.

She opens her front door.

The hallway is empty.

She tiptoes across the hall and puts her ear below “3F” on Martin’s door. Silence. But that doesn’t mean anything. Those creatures are probably in there. Right now. Fucking each other with those tentacles–or whatever the hell you call them.

More humming.

Is it a lightbulb, or is it her brain doing the math, plugging holes?stilllifedaultondickey

She ties her robe and rubs her stomach and tiptoes down the hall, listening in on apartments 3D, 3C, 3B.

She puts her teeth together and hisses, just to make sure she hasn’t gone deaf.

Hiss.

She hasn’t gone deaf.

Door 3B flings open. A human-sized caterpillar pops its head into the hallway. Snot and cum drips from its mouth.

–Everything okay? it says.

–Fine.

–Why you in your robe? Locked out?

–Stop talking to me. Monster. Continue reading

A Brief Manifesto for the Practicing and Emerging Artist

by
D. Cay.

  1. Uproot cultural norms. If something is considered “common sense,” then you daultondickeyshould ridicule or satirize it.

 

  1. Target modesty and decency.

 

  1. Celebrate obscenity, vulgarity, and cruelty.

 

  1. Embrace chaos.

 

  1. Shun “traditional” or “standard” forms or structures. If you don’t want to challenge them too radically, at least tweak them with the aim of upsetting the reader’s, or spectator’s, equilibrium.

 

  1. Have a point. Art for art’s sake, or strange for strange’s sake, or offensive for offensive’s sake should be treated like television: it’s all right in moderation, but too much will rot your brain.

Continue reading

Is Literature Dying?

by
Daulton Dickey.

The Failing Health of Fiction

Here’s a thought experiment: close your eyes and create a mental image of a novel, any novel, and by that, we mean a physical book. Then create a mental image of the novel transmogrifying into a person. Now imagine this person’s health. Imagine he or she’s lying on a bed in a hospital, attached to machinery seemingly plucked from a Terry Gilliam film. One glitch, one unplugged cord, one kink in a tube or a wire and the person dies.

images (1)Now imagine transforming that person back into a book, and imagine the book is a work of fiction, specifically genre or literary fiction. The health of fiction depends on innovation and new ideas. Argue to the contrary, and you’ll make an argument based solely on commerce.

“Books x, y, and z are successful; therefore fiction isn’t dead,” which is true: fiction isn’t dead. But it’s dying. Like the imagine patient above, fiction is on life support. We can attribute many causes to this state of affair, such as the rise of home entertainment and video games, the internet and smartphones and augmented reality, which certainly plays a part. However, to argue on those terms alone is, at least to a degree, to argue beside the point. Continue reading

Words are Elusive Bastards

by
Daulton Dickey.

Words are elusive bastards.They disappear the moment you think you’ve wrangled them. Two words float in conjunction with a clause: you see them, reach for them, groan as your fingers brush them. Then the bastards vanish.

“All everyone ever wanted to do was speak.” You hear this phrase as it flutters away from you. But what’s it mean? Does it mean anything?

-BrainChain-_Willem_den_Broeder_2001_

Who knows? Continue reading

The “Reality” of Literature and the Death of the Avant-Garde

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is a revision of a previously published edition.)

If literature were a person, it’d be in a vegetative state. Nothing new is said, nothing new is to be learned, nothing new is offered—the appearances might change but the forms remain the same.

A cliche persists in our culture that if you want to change the system you must first become part of the system. This is an illusion meant to persuade people to embrace the system; it’s designed to inculcate conformity.

Like our culture, literature itself is homogenized while taking on the appearance ofinarticulate_by_dustyantiques heterogeny.

In an image-obsessed culture, appearances are everything.

Another cliche with which we’re familiar warns us to refrain from judging a book by its cover. In reality, we should judge a book by its form. Form should supersede appearances. But in accordance with our species, a peculiar mammal with the cognitive ability to process and model information linearly, the form remains the same while the appearances change.

In an age of movies and television, video games and the internet, things must change. Literature cannot excel at telling linear stories the way visual media can; instead, literature should transcend the simulacrum and represent new and alternate ways to experience simulated or emulated realities.

And that is what literature does: it emulates or simulates realities. Contrary to early Wittgenstein, language does not picture reality; instead, it provides instructions for your brain to construct models. Continue reading

The Psychology of Appearances

by
Daulton Dickey.

They say we grind our teeth as a show of affection. I’m so adept at grinding my teeth that I can do it while walking and contemplating the plaque in the clouds. Affection? Hardly. Curiosity, I’d say—at best. But then who isn’t, if not at least slightly, curious about the plaque dripping from the clouds? No one comes to mind.

When I was a child, my father pretended not to care, but it was a vaudeville routine: he’d say, “I don’t care about the goddamn plaque,” while gazing at the sky with shifty eyes. Such behavior taught me two things: 1), don’t take everything adults say at face value; and, 2), never directly confront the plaque. Always pay your respects furtively.

—Dad, I remember saying, when I was maybe three or four. —Why does the sky crack?

—The sky cracks to let in the juice from the sun.

—What does the juice do?

thehumanconditionrenemagritte1933
The Human Condition, Rene Magritte, 1933

—It allows us to see and live, breathe and scream.

—Can we scream without the sun’s juice?

—Yeah, but what’s the point?

What’s the point indeed? I didn’t know it then, but it’s clear to me now that the point of the sun’s juice is to illuminate our deficiencies, a sort of aesthetic truth serum. We wouldn’t know we were ugly or flawed, overweight or weak-chinned or buck-toothed or cross-eyed if the sun’s juice didn’t force honesty into our optic nerves. Continue reading

Two Short Pieces About Writing

by
Daulton Dickey.

1.

—Say, what do you do?

—I’m not sure, sir.

—Whatta ya mean you’re not sure? How old are you son?

—Thirteen I reckon.

—You reckon?

—I ain’t much for learning.

—Learning’s one thing. Not knowing your age is a different matter entirely. Where are

22448670_497133723987380_83126083466162244_n
Adrian Cherry

your parents?

 

—At home.

—And what do they do?

—Stuff I guess.

—What kind of “stuff”?

—The kind of stuff where they don’t make much money.

—Is that what you want to do, then? Grow up to be poor?

—Ain’t got no choice, I guess.

—We always have a choice, son. Continue reading

Recent and Upcoming Indie Book Releases

by
Daulton Dickey.

Absolutely Golden: A Novel
D. Foy
Stalking Horse Press

Absolutely-Golden-Store-ImageIt’s 1973, and a thirty-something widow has been cajoled by a young hippie parasite into financing their vacation to a nudist colony in the Northern California mountains. The night before their departure, however, she arrives home to learn that she and this man will be accompanied by the stripper on his lap. At Camp Freedom Lake, the trio meet a womanizing evangelist, a bumbling Zen gardener, and a pair of aging drug-addled swingers from Holland. Together, they’re catapulted through one improbable event after the other, each stranger than the last, until finally the woman who was dominated by her fear of past and future finds herself reveling in the great here and now.

D. Foy’s Absolutely Golden is a radical departure from his two previous novels, Made to Breakand Patricide. It’s comic, ebullient, magic, light, gently surrealistic. It’s rollicking, effervescent, slyly profound. But more, this brisk tale offers a kaleidoscopic look at parts of the 1970s we haven’t often seen in fiction—nudism, New Age philosophy, Eastern religion, the occult, swingers culture, California culture, and then some.

Best of all, Foy tells his story in the guise of a woman obsessed with the notion that she’ll never find another man until she’s rid of what she believes to be a mysterious curse. As if written in the marriage of Vladimir Nabokov, Renata Adler, and Anaïs Nin, her words transport us from doubt, despair, and dread into states of increasing wonder and euphoria.

Click here to Pre-order or Buy Absolutely Golden

The Abridged History of Rainfall
Jay Hopler
McSweeney’s

rainfall_pb_cover_store_siteThe Abridged History of Rainfall is a finalist for the National Book Award.
Jay Hopler’s second collection, a mourning song for his father, is an elegy of uproar, a careening hymn to disaster and its aftermath. In lyric poems by turns droll and desolate, Hopler documents the struggle to live in the face of great loss, a task that sends him ranging through Florida’s torrid subtropics, the mountains of the American West, the streets of Rome, and the Umbrian countryside. Vivid, dynamic, unrestrained: The Abridged History of Rainfall is a festival of glowing saints and fighting cocks, of firebombs and birdsong.

Click here to Pre-order or Buy The Abridged History of Rainfall

 

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