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

Three Short Parables

by
Daulton Dickey.

I.

For a brief moment, no longer than ten years, which wasn’t much, all things considered, the city seemed on the verge of greatness. Nestled at the mouth of Lake Michigan, it had served as a portal for steel manufacturers to transport their goods to and from Gary and Chicago, both voracious consumers of raw and processed steel. Houses bloomed in fields until no fields remained. Streets and sidewalks, buildings and stores and factories filled the city. The leaders of industry diversified, and soon a Pullman boxcar manufacturer popped up. By the lake, a cough lozenge manufacturer erected a simple, box-shaped building. The city boomed, as people would say. Incomes increased, and along with it the accoutrements concomitant to disposable income: pools and swings and cars, some excessively luxurious, and general stores packed with disposable goods, all of which Evstafiev-bosnia-cellopeople devoured, people looking to fill their lives with evidence of their squandered time. Then voodoo economics and global trade deals crushed the steel industry, and the port withered and died. Chasing jobs, people fled. Poverty replaced prosperity. Drugs and alcoholism, crime and violence, anxiety and depression and suicide scarred the faces and fattened the bodies of everyone left to rot in the city. Paint on buildings and signs and fences chipped and faded, and concrete cracked and broke. Gray replaced color. The world seemed to dim. Every once in a while, sometimes twice a month, the sky over the city cracked: blood and sulfuric effluvia drenched the city. The poor bastards buried in the bottom-most levels of the social strata, left to rot when the wealth of the middle class fled, watched as the faces of their friends and loved ones drooped. No one understood the affliction. Doctors hypothesized neurological disorders possibly caused by an ecosystem poisoned by decades of industry, but they nixed the neurological argument when faces melted and slid off and merged with the flesh on chests or necks or stomachs or arms. Something else was clearly at work. That no one seemed to notice or care, that doctors only treated it with anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication didn’t evoke questions from anyone passing through the city. Most people, those with money who passed through town, dismissed the affliction as a problem relegated to the impoverished. In some way, people argued, it was probably their fault–maybe not directly; perhaps it was the product of poor upbringing, or genetics. At any rate, people said, there wasn’t much use in worrying. ‘My life’s good,’ one traveler said, ‘my face’s intact; why should I worry?’ The old woman, who lived in the abandoned post office, known to everyone in town as a ‘crazy witch,’ laughed when she overheard the traveler’s apathy. ‘The way things are going,’ she said, ‘the sky over every city will crack, and every face will soon droop and melt.’ The traveler ignored her. Everyone ignored her. And when the sky over cities around the country–around the world, even–cracked and bled, and faces drooped and melted, entire populations ignored the problem, pretended it didn’t exist, by focusing on alcohol, drugs, sports, and pop culture. ‘I mean, really, there’s nothing to worry about,’ a local community organizer said. He was a prominent billionaire, face intact, who lived in a neighborhood enclosed in a dome and often acted as the voice of the people. ‘This is something that happens,’ he said. ‘It’s important now, it’s absolutely critical, that we carry on with our lives. We as citizens must continue shopping, go on vacation, go to college, accumulate as much debt as is needed to help our struggling economy. Faces change. Yes, some even melt. But it must not prevent us from living our lives, from raising our children, from playing our part in maintaining the economy.’ Footage of his speech played on repeat on news broadcasts around the country. Few people expressed alarm when his cheek twitched and his eyelid sagged mid-way through the speech. Sometime later, he retired from public view. Continue reading

21 Transgressive Books (Part 3)

by
Daulton Dickey.

(This is part 3 of a 3 part series. Read Part One here. And Part Two here.)

Transgressive fiction is a genre of literature which focuses on characters who feel confined by the norms and expectations of society and who break free of those confines in unusual or illicit ways

Without spending too much time elaborating on theories w/r/t transgressive fiction, the above quote is from Wikipedia. Succinct, it offers a broad enough outline to convey the gist of this often ill-defined subset of fiction.

This isn’t a definitive list. It’s also not intended as authoritative. Instead, it’s a list of some transgressive books that have inspired me as a writer—and a person—over the years. Although I should clarify that I don’t love every book on this list. In fact, I find some of them repugnant, their authors appalling, but they’ve still affected me in one way or the other.

If you haven’t read much transgressive fiction, you should do yourself a favor a take a detour into world funny and strange, terrifying, awe-inspiring, and disturbing.

Although this list deals primarily with fiction, I’ve decided to include a few important works of non-fiction and poetry.

How to Talk Dirty and Influence People by Lenny Bruce
(Playboy Publishing, 1965)

HowToTalkDirtyAndInfluencePeoplePerhaps the most important comedian of the twentieth century, Lenny Bruce introduced satire and social commentary to mainstream comedy. His career started as any other in the 1950s: telling jokes wherever he could—bars, strip clubs, fledgling nightclubs. His career started with a whimper as he told jokes typical of the time. But when he found his voice, he forever changed the face of comedy—and became a target for federal and local law enforcement and puritanical groups intent on preserving the bland discourse of totalitarian 50s America. Continue reading

Bertrand Russell—A Prose Poem

by
Daulton Dickey.

Soft tiled tissue of longing and regret shoot from the prism of circles folding inward from cackles distorting our eyes. Merry go rounds spurt with the juice of ten thousand angels martyred and hung and forced to spend the rest of eternity* spinning in endless circles. Through caves in the universe emerge miasmas of rock and salt, of thoughts brimming with annihilation, and through circles in time, through gaps, they slip in and devour the moment without expression.20140817-163629.jpg

Slurp slip sloop, the heavens cry as they distend and droop into the flowers and soil below. And the stench of honeydew permeates the air before flames disintegrate the spirit of neglect. The worlds in the silence of the motion of atoms hum and hem and haw and drum slowly the output of trillions of neurons and sketch flames into the canyons of organic machines too blind to notice the empty gazes in their reflections.

Where concrete and gold flow into the wombs of pregnant cultures, corruption creeps into the smiles of the machines, each of whom trade gold for reflections better suited to their images of hungry and explosive gazes. But nothing is ever complete, and grapes hang on vines and pop and bleed onto the ground; fire ants hatch from the cells of traipsing blood and scurry along the grass, trying to evade their inevitable rise. And sure enough: they do rise. Each ant shifts and evolves and transforms into musical notes and soars onto the tablature of the moment as it skips along the tremolo of the spinning planet.

And we’re left alone, deaf to the songs played by the wind and blind to the black holes devouring our reflections.
________

*’The rest of eternity’ is, of course, a pun: you cannot quantify that which does not end. Men have tried, and they’ve exalted in the fountains of their newly found neuroses.

[copyright 2014 Daulton Dickey]