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

The Role of Fantasy in Franz Kafka’s Amerika

by
Daulton Dickey.

amerikaIn Amerika by Franz Kafka, the character Karl Rossman is shipped away to America by his parents following a scandal with a servant girl. From hotel employee to bum to servant, young Karl experiences a panoply of adventures and emotions as he tries to find his way through life. Superficially, it’s a straightforward tale, a Huckleberry Finn-esque Bildungsroman. Since Kafka rarely wrote superficial tales, however, it is possible that Karl’s adventures mean something else–for Karl and for Kafka.

Interestingly, the title “Amerika” comes to us from Max Brod, who changed Kafka’s original title. Kafka’s title Der Verschollene, however, translates to “The Missing Person” or “The Man Who Disappeared.” Why would he give the novel a title that expresses the point of view of Karl’s family while the narration itself follows Karl, giving only passing mention to his family? 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

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

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

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

 

  Continue reading

Writers: Kill Your Sense of Self in 6 Easy Steps

by
Daulton Dickey.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step into any bookstore or library and you’re bound to discover at least one book professing to be capital-t the underscored book to learn how to write a book that publishers and agents and readers and Hollywood producers and the Dalai Lama and maybe the Pope or some low-rent Mafioso will recognize and idolize and adore. Fiction, according to the reality in which these writers write, is an algorithm. Replace variables with values and, viola, book is done. Sale is imminent.

And that might work for some people. But if you have integrity, then you should buy or borrow that book, tear out each and every page, and use those pages to roll cigarettes or joints or to wipe your ass.

Inhale the words fermenting on the pages.

Or cover them with shit and piss.

Those rules are better to inhale and exhale, they’re better as permanent scars on your lungs, than they are to absorb and incorporate into your writing.

Now let’s make a distinction. Some rules are useful, such as word economics or showing in lieu of telling.

I’m talking about structure.

I’m talking about form.

I’m talking about what information is necessary, what isn’t—but I’m modifying it: ambiguity and disconnection constitute important information as well.

I’m talking about the algorithms writers and agents and editors and authors of ‘How-to’ books drill into your head.

The algorithm of fiction is what we want to avoid.

How else are we going to invent new ways of telling stories—and new ways of seeing ourselves—if we stick to the same tired rules?

Which leads to a question: How do we invent new forms of storytelling?teethheart daulton dickey

Which leads to Step #1:

Experiment. Break the mold. Try to write in new ways, try to shake things up—to use a cliché—try to change how sentences and paragraphs and chapters flow. Try to alter what information you find necessary and what information you don’t find necessary. Continue reading

Review: Battle Without Honor or Humanity Volumes 1 and 2 by D. Harlan Wilson

by
Daulton Dickey.

dharlandwilson3In an age of corporate omnipotence and adherence to formula, experimental fiction has fallen further into the gaps, obscured by the shadows of genre and ‘safe bets.’ Of the few experimental writers working today, D. Harlan Wilson embraces the shadows, creating works without pretense to genre or formulae.

Wilson eschews orthodoxy in his latest works, Battle Without Honor or Humanity Volumes 1 and 2 (also recently collected in a single volume), and produces a work both maddening and refreshingly different—and new, which is what makes these books so interesting: you’ve not encountered anything like them. As a result, you can’t approach them as traditional novels. If you do, you’ll find the experience of reading these books less than enlightening. Continue reading

6 Tips for Writers Who Want to Break the Mold

by
Daulton Dickey.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step into any bookstore or library and you’re bound to discover at least one book professing to be capital-t the underscored book to learn how to write a book that publishers and agents and readers and Hollywood producers and the Dalai Lama and maybe the Pope or some low-rent Mafioso will recognize and idolize and adore. Fiction, according to the reality in which these writers write, is an algorithm. Replace variables with values and, viola, book is done. Sale is imminent.

And that might work for some people. But if you have any ambition and integrity, then you should buy or borrow that book, tear out each and every page, and use those pages to roll cigarettes or joints. Smoke that inhales the words fermenting on the pages. Those rules are better to inhale and exhale, they’re better as permanent scars on your lungs, than they are to absorb and incorporate into your writing.

Now let’s make a distinction. Some rules are useful, such as word economics or showing in lieu of telling. I’m talking about structure. I’m talking about form. I’m talking about what information is necessary, what isn’t—but I’m modifying it: ambiguity and disconnection constitute important information as well. I’m talking about the algorithms writers and agents and editors and authors of ‘How-to’ books drill into your head. The algorithm of fiction is what we want to avoid. How else are we going to invent new ways of storytelling—and new ways of seeing ourselves—if we stick to the same tired rules?

Which leads to a question: How do we invent new forms of storytelling?

Which leads to Tip #1:

Experiment. Break the mold. Try to write in new ways, try to shake things up, to use a cliché, try to change how sentences and paragraphs and chapters flow. Try to alter what information you find necessary and what information you don’t find necessary. Continue reading