Thursday, October 23, 2008

'Real Fiction' sorry, who gives a shit, what

I've gotten I think 3 personal rejection letters in the last few days, all three posing a similar question: how is this connected to the real world?

I am not phased in any way by rejections anymore, if anything I like them, honestly, especially when they say things.

One of the letters said this: "... the general consensus here was that it was a thing with too many layers, layers upon layers, and the process was more of a process of peeling them away to get to the meaning. Not a bad thing in itself, of course, so long as it's part of a process of meaning... "

Process of meaning. Meaning. I don't know. Why did the dog shit into the cantaloupe in this scene? What does the dog shitting into the cantaloupe say about our lives, in this day now?

Equally: What does a guy going to a store and meeting a woman mean? What does a character realizing he has cancer mean? How directly should a layer be connected to another layer in order for the idea to be clear?

A better question: why does something in a book have to be speaking to our lives?

What if the author doesn't know and doesn't want to know?

What can be said that isn't speaking to a life in some way, outside of pure aasdhfoasydoriuaoduri gibberish?

Though I honestly have felt affected by asiodfhjasidfyoaiudyfiu more than, say, books where every action has a reaction and each move is eventually understood.

I think too many movies and Flannery O'Connor prize winning books and so on have milked the idea of text as life replication object or motive opener into something very restrictive and dangerous really, at least in certain forums.

I'm not talking about 'experimental' literature here, or making an argument against narrative, per say, but more wondering what certain types of motives and expectations are for in fiction.

Is the reader working to connect the 'meaning' bad?

Is unclear meaning, rendered well, not desired?

Layers upon layers

Recently, when Johannes Goransson read here in Atlanta, he read part of a text that said, specifically, 'NARRATIVE = DEATH,' referring to tag line for a Godard film in the poem. The other reader who read with Johannes, Chris Bundy, a more narrative-interested guy who seemed a bit edged by reading after Johannes (who wouldn't?) specifically referred to that moment before he began with his story. He asked Johannes if that's what he'd said, and Johannes agreed, adding 'I didn't say I was right.'

Chris's story then ended in several people in the narrative dying.

I don't believe the idea that 'every story has been told,' I've never read a story about a hermaphrodite with lesions over his eyes opening a bakery in Cabbagetown GA and starting his own branch of young female club to compete with Girl Scouts, while in the evenings going to a bridge parlor to expose himself to old women. I also feel, though, that if that story, as ridiculous or 'irreal' as it is, isn't told using words that do something in and of themselves, 'sentences,' then you aren't saying anything at all.

And yet, too, there can be things that happen, tangentially even, in stories or what have you, that have no referendum, no ulterior zoning, etc. They are words, the words themselves, as fractal moments or as ant heads in an enormous anthill, say something in a few words that open only for there, then, and are finished. And that is all they should be, to expound on them would be to beat their cheeks.

This second letter excerpt is from a friend, so I feel slightly attenuated in posting it, but I have absolutely no hard feelings, so hopefully the editors won't either, the piece that was sent was an excerpt from a larger thing that probably did not stand alone, and regardless, it doesn't matter, I am just thinking aloud here:

"For instance, when the birds become pillows, what does this really offer the reader? It's a lovely image, but what real-world parallel is there for us to come away with?"

I don't know, what does the birds becoming pillows offer? What else should be said?

Why can't a bird made into a pillow just be a bird pillow?

Why can't a forehead be slathered in bacon grease while the narrator stands in the hotel mirror with the three babies on the bed behind him, without needing to know that the narrator is undergoing chemo and feels an emotional ennui?

It is dangerous and reckless I think to think that all narratives, or even realistic or connective narratives, are ones that have a palpable link to real life, real moments, the real.

I say this completely outside my own writing, my own taste even, I think.

Like, what is really real brah?

Like, what is human n shit?

'Ulysses posted the photos of his mother's liver surgery to his blog and turned around to touch the bright blue sore on the window through which the morning had begun to splatter glue.'

I am excited about the upcoming issue of Unsaid, it seems like an answer to some of this, it has some really recent surrealist stuff from me, and I have noticed several really incredible others that will be in it: Scott Garson, Rachel B. Glaser, Peter Markus, Kristina Born (K. had sent the piece to No Colony also we were about to accept it, it is amazing, fuck). It seems like the issue will be big, like the other issues, that could be laid on an operating bed and young children sent in to see the book.

I started off to write this blog with a clear point but then having a clear point about writing fiction that doesn't have a clear point seems pointless and like a dick in the eye.

Here's something real that happened to me on Monday: In the cemetery down the street from my house the other day there was a grave that was swarmed with daisies, I mean the plot was big as a king sized bed and the daisies had grown up waist high on it, covering every inch of the plot, there were hundreds of bees.

I want my headstone to say something like 'He dun fucked up.' or 'This would be a good place to take a piss.'

That is my wish.

Seriously, I know, fuck me.

** On Tuesday I will have a big announcement **


Darby said...

It's okay for fiction to not have meaning, and it does, often. Off. Ten. I think the problem lies, and this is where I get into trouble a lot (Off. Ten.) is when what's happening seems to imply a meaning when none is really there or intended. Like, inadvertently, there is almost meaning there so when someone reads it, they think, oh they aren't fleshing it out enough, when in reality there is no meaning. You have to be able to write meaninglessly and also somehow hint to the idea that there isn't supposed to be meaning, or something.

Ricky's Anus looks like something that should keep going forever.


but the accidental meaning is the meaning i want

the meanings i want are meanings i can't say and no one can say and that's why they aren't said and that's why they are smeary and layered and gone



Darby said...

I agree and like what you are saying and it's what I want to do also, but I'm just saying other retarded people out there want meaning to be there because their mommy's taught them that things are only important if they mean something, and anything that veers from clear meaning is repulsive. You are a genius and should keep writing off-meaning fiction so that the world will eventually tilt off its axis and wobble and set off car alarms.


you are nice to say that darby, most of the time i feel retarded though, though i am happy to feel retarded

i liked what you said earlier about 'driven but inexplicably' or however you put it, that was exactly right

Darby said...

incomprehensibly driven, yes. I am rather proud of myself for that one. I am rather wishing I get get a little drunk right now, I am feeling it, feeling good, feeling texty. But I am typing this from a cubicle and it is only 2:12pm but maybe I will go home early because sometimes I just leave work at any hour and no one cares because I am like a god here.

ken baumann said...

that seems a little ridiculous, asking for a 'real world parallel' about birds turning into pillows. can't the image just exist, let the reader interpret? i suppose, though, that if you have 2 editors, and both of them don't click with the birdpillow, and draw some sort of AHAH moment from it, then maybe, by committee, they decide NO THIS ISN'T WORKING, THERE IS NO METAPHOR HERE. that's their job, i guess. hmm. i need to think before i SPEAK.

ricky's A (calling it that from now on, like a hushed baptist woman, RICKY'S A) reads really good. i'm excited to read the whole thing.

ken baumann said...


Jamie Iredell said...

Funny--well, maybe not coincidence--that I've been having basically the same discussion on my blog. All I'm going to say is something I've already said: one time, in workshop, this one girl said, "Really? I don't think the mountian lions woud talk like that." Response: Even in a story? or a poem? or a play? or whatever? That's only as far a connecting to the "real" world. Obviously, I think, if writers didn't imagine beyond the "real" world, we wouldn't have most literature at all. And, in terms of "meaning," isn't that what literary critics are for, and not writers? As Archibald Macliesh said of poetry: "A poem should not mean, but be." We can just slide story--or whatever you want--in there. It's not your job to make "meaning". All you have to do is write stuff that you can stand by for at least a few years, and wake up in the morning and stare at the wall behind your computer and feel good about yourself as a writer, and get back to work. Wat you do is write. Everyone else decides it must "mean."


its just a matter of taste of course

its not really the rejection i'm thinking of, its more the overarching tendency

i want a baseball hat that says ricky's a with the a from the a's and ricky stitched above it


haha ' i dont think the mountain lions would talk like that'


yes, just write the shit

Michael Goroff said...

In high school, my English teacher made us look for themes, as if they were hieroglyphics, or a puzzle in the text. Then she insisted that, when we find the theme, we must phrase it in the form of a complete sentence, like: Things go badly, but people persevere.

This way of looking at writing is bullshit. Books are not puzzles, and they do not hold the answers. Books are here to make us think, in any way.

But I also think that there are certain mimetic requirements for people to be able to have a reason to read and connect with a piece. I think that maybe this comes from a long tradition of realism in literature. Even in people like Burroughs and Pynchon, we have images and things that are unmistakeably tied to a reality we all share. But I don't know if I agree with that.

I'm wondering if these rejections are because of these traditions and expectations we have imbibed, or if these were problems specific to your texts that the editors were having, and maybe they didn't phrase their questions the right way. I don't think they were asking what they were asking. I think they were trying to say something else, but I'm not sure.

Keith said...

i can't wait for the announcement. i'm kind of sick and tired of keeping my mouth shut about it. can't wait.


yeah i'm definitely not arguing for the 'sanctity of my texts' or anything like that. i hope this didn't come off in that way, its really not at all about me as a writer but more as a reader. i don't understand the impulse, wherever it comes from.

i have read most everything burroughs wrote, and i have never been on junk or took it up the butt from a jungle boy, in fact most of the time i have no idea what he's talking about, but it makes me feel something


the editors of both magazines above are people i like and respect, its not a matter of that at all, just for the record. it's just discussion.


thanks keith, u dat fire

Darby said...

also, on editors writing personal notes in rejections, I wouldn't take them to heart too much. It's interesting people are saying the same thing, but sometimes a piece just doesn't taste good, and they want to be nice and find a reason why so they search hard for why it doesn't taste good, but can't find anything except lack of strong meaning and they say that, when in fact, it may be something else altogether. I never liked that part of being an editor, that it sometimes feels like the editor's job to explain why something doesn't work and that is an incredibly difficult thing to do. In fact I don't think you really can do it, you can say, maybe if it was more like this I would like it, but the thing can be changed an infinite number of ways and how does anyone know which of those ways will work and which won't. Jesus.

Darby said...

I didn't mean to say 'don't take them to heart,' I meant to say 'don't take them as objective truths'


i probably shouldnt have mentioned the letters, people will think i am taking it personally or that is the instigator of my position.

i could get rejected for the rest of my life for any # of reasons and it wouldnt matter to me, its not personal, its just a taste thing. i am glad to get rejected, often i look back and say, thank god.

Darby said...

I have had those moments too, like thank god because in the time since I sent to them I've learned to hate them.

Also, don't take rejections too personally. Don't take them personally. It is okay. You will be okay.


haha shut up dude

Molly Gaudry said...

Hi Blake,

This is an interesting post. I used to get this sort of thing in workshop a lot.

As a very young writer, I did a lot of language-y type writing and there was never really any meaning intended. I generally just wanted words to sound pretty. After a lot of workshopping--interestingly, with the same two profs for over five years--I tempered the language and ended up, I think, probably doing maybe 5% language, 95% narrative. For me, in the end, this is a good thing.

Now, as a youngish writer, I struggle sometimes, too, with the idea of images vs. story. I'm doing some strange magical realism stuff in a new project I've got going, and sometimes I ask myself the questions you're asking in this post.

Ultimately, though, for me, anyway, I think it does have to matter. This thing I'm going to type after this is something I believe in with everything I've got that believes: Physical details are never just physical details; they have to provide emotional relevance.

In other words, physical details, or images, perhaps, have to do double duty. (Again, this is just a personal pref., for me as a reader and as a writer.)

I think your story, "The Gown from Mother's Stomach," is an excellent example of what I'm talking about. I love that story. Every physical detail in that story does AT LEAST double duty. Emotional resonances abound.


DOGZPLOT said...

i think i should say something stupid here.

for me its not that everything has to mean something, although i think i said things should mean something before but i think that is not what i meant to mean.

of course i like ideas and images and concepts that have no definitive answer, where part of its significance lies in what it may suggest, though i mean more than this i am bad at saying it.

but for me i still have to revert back to the question of why. with any detail, descritpion, suggestion, any fucking word. for me i still need to know. WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS. there has to be a reason, there has to be something, and for me. BECAUSE I FEEL LIKE IT, is not a satisfactory answer.

about the mountain lion talking, its funny to me how readers would question a mountain lion talking, but not a mary shelly's yellow monster that speaks fluent french.

DOGZPLOT said...

we are asking the reader to invest themselves and their time into our writing, and people can argue that point, but we would be lying to pretend we didnt.... so to me the why is essential. why the fuck should i read what you and not someone else.... because your mountain lion talks... whoaaaa man. or because your bird is now a pillow.

i didnt mean you guys stuff specifically, but im using them as general examples.

Molly Gaudry said...

See, Barry has a good point. It's not a question of mountain lions talking, birds being pillows, and the believability of these things...

But what we're getting at, I think, and what this discussion is really about, is meaning.

Does there need to be meaning behind a story for a story to work? Of course not. Nobody wants to be smacked with a moral. That's not what this is about.

Likewise, who cares about that girl saying that the mountain lion probably wouldn't say that? Fact is, it seems she's bought that the mountain lion's got something to say. But the problem, maybe, was in the mountain lion's delivery. The mountain lion said the wrong thing. Okay, I have no idea what the mountain lion said or what context the girl's comment was even in, relating to the mountain lion's speaking. So enough about that.

But, as Barry says (sorry if I'm misrepresenting, here, Barry), readers, myself included, want there to be some grain of something (truth, understanding, emotion, feeling) offered by the story, by its images, by its language, by its characters' actions or narrative perceptions.

It's not that birds can't be pillows because this doesn't happen in the real world. Rather, if birds are going to be pillows, if this is the part of the conceit, then how does the story fully imagine the conceit and carry it to full term?

I changed my picture. Yay.

BlogSloth said...

U are seriously beyond these issues of rejection letters, as I guess is your point, no?

What is absurd anymore?

What doesn't "relate" to the "real world."

I remember a great Vonnegut interview about him drawing his asshole on the page (Breakfast of Champions--read it and see) and he says, "You know what, that was shocking. Then. But nothing would shock an audience now."


I could go on, but I'm a little drunk.

And I love Regis Philbin.

Catherine Lacey said...

I feel that individual sentences and images and such can be without meaning (I don't care why the dog shits on the cantalope or why the birds are pillows) but overall, you should finish a work of fiction and say "Oh, I never thought of it that way."

I feel like things can get forgettable and pointless when an author relies on cool/shocking imagery to carry the reader. I need more than that.

Darby said...

I thought last week was mean week, bad pun, what I mean is, basically, meaning in fiction, what? Fiction means? Read nonfiction if you want meaning. Read the scripture of the religion you believe in for meaning.

Meaning I think will always be sucked out by the reader, like Blake is saying above, it's not devoid of meaning, it's just not coming from the author, the meaning is 'accidental' and comes from the reader's brain. Meaning is shifted. No more obligatory meaning from the author! Make the reader 'read' it! The reader 'mean' it! It's no fun when the author 'knows.' It's only fun when no one knows and so everyone comes to their own knowing.

BlogSloth said...

Why the fuck am I posting twice? Because I am a little drunk and the economy has seriously cut down on my drinking-and-EBaying.



I have noticed 99.9 % of my students read and expect EVERY story to be realist.


How did fiction in fucking 2008!!!
become default realism?


Wouldn't magical realism be what we see every day?


Darby said...

that is funy barry. I thought and am a little drunk also that magic realism was the new thing. I think in order to have 99.9% of students, you have to have 1000 students. That is a lot. That is too much realism for me. What does it mean? It means sock it to me.

ryan call said...

i hate everyone.

ryan call said...


i mean, i just dont want to think about this at all.
i should not have read this post.

DOGZPLOT said...


that wasnt me that said that. im not blogsloth. or i am and nobody ever told me.

yeah, im not saying that everything has to mean something, but honestly, while you guys are reading, nobody asks themselves, WHY AM I BEING TOLD THIS.

that doesnt matter to anyone??? really?? i must be out of my fucking mind then to expect it. i guess

Anonymous said...

If your work has no intended meaning, than that should come across and in itself, is a huge "meaing". You are saying "no meaning". It is a big thing to say, and can be said in various ways, and is, vey much a "meaning". In other words, there is no escaping meaning.

I don't say this to contradict, but rather, to focus your essay here. Meaninglessness is a huge topic in fiction and non. It's a good one. But it is what it is. A topic. A meaning.

Molly Gaudry said...

Blake should maybe post his story so we've all got some context.

I've got a story coming out in QF that got laughed at, like, hardy har, this is so fucking funny because this could never happen in real life, by a Visiting Writer leading the workshop--a known realist, whose point was that if it isn't real, then it's funny, and your readers are going to think its funny, and blah blah.

During the workshop, I kept thinking about Aimee Bender's story, "Ironhead," and how it's got this scene in it with this little five- or six-year-old kid with an iron for a head. His parents and his two older sisters have pumpkins for heads. This little ironhead runs away from school and goes into a hardware store and pulls down real-world irons from a shelf and places them in a half circle around himself, and then he goes to sleep.

At some point in the story he cries, and his tears turn to steam.

There is nothing fucking funny about that.

"Ironhead" rocked me to my core. It's one of my favorite stories, and it fucking means something.

Maybe it's about being different, maybe it's about having a fucking pumpkin for a head, or about how families don't have to look perfect, or look the same, or about how sisters suck, or about how it's hard being parents, or about wanting to fit in and not being able to, or any other number of real-world things, take your pick.

Still, as a reader, I connected to the story, mostly because of little ironhead and that scene with the irons. Spoiler alert. He also dies. And when the neighbors bring hot food dishes, the mother pumpkinhead throws them all away because their rising steams hit a little too close to home. Another spoiler alert. One of the pumpkinhead sisters goes on to give birth to a teapothead. Steam, it turns out, is a recessive gene.

I'm going on too long, but my point is that Aimee Bender's story has stayed with me forever, and its staying power has everything to do with the fact that I think (I'm probably wrong, if there even is a right or wrong) that I know what the story means.

In any case, it means something to me. The little ironhead touched me. His mother pumpkinhead touched me. The fucking teapothead touched me. I don't need to be touched, but I need something, and there it is: I don't want to fucking laugh at a story because it isn't real; I want the unreal to reach into my skull and squeeze and never let go.

Blake, did you know it's Tuesday right now?


i'm sorry ryan

i really didnt mean this

everyone should be quiet and read the tunnel

not edson's tunnel

the tunnel

i am fucking tired


no one should be talking about what anything should do or be

i shouldn't have done this

i am a cooch gourd, what do you know about that/

ryan call said...

i 'related' to my relatives

prathna lor said...



these definitions are dangerous

and vague

and impossible to nail

and so crossed with counter examples

on all ends

"Physical details are never just physical details; they have to provide emotional relevance." :: these two sentences are contradictory.

Molly Gaudry said...

Hey, howdy.

Yeah, I mean something pretty, the dress, for instance, isn't just a dress; it's a dress the mother's making so the daughter can wear it, and then the daughter does wear it. The dress is relevant, emotionally; it is not simply a physical detail.

I'm thinking here in terms of the other end of the spectrum...oh, say, a story about Sherri, who is introduced to readers as having on a neatly ironed white button-down blouse, tucked into her pressed seersucker capris trousers. Who gives a fuck what she's wearing unless the clothes matter for some other reason?

It's late. I'm rambling. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Blake--I know you said that you are regretting posting this, and you seem to be tired of the discussion, but I just can't help myself.

I agree with what Molly and Barry seem to be getting at: Namely, that none of this shit is random.

Like you, I love William H. Gass, and the reason I love Gass is because the motherfucker does some amazing shit with language.

That said, I also have two schizophrenic uncles (really, I do) who do some amazing shit with language. I could listen to them talk and/or read what they write down all day. But in the end, I'm not going to take much away from what they have to say--the way I do from, say, Gass's works.

The reason: With Gass, nothing is random. There are patterns we can discern. There are ways to see how the "layers" or whatever you want to call them connect with one another.

Listening to my schizophrenic uncles, in the end, it all becomes gibberish. Random. Something a monkey could replicate via copy and paste.

Could/Should a reader search for "meaning" in something like this?


But I doubt the monkey--or my schizophrenic uncles--is asking us to.

Darby said...

I like the schizophrenic uncle analogy. That gets at a root.

There is something that would pull me to experience the schizophrenic uncle's writing more than Gass's: it has been stripped of contrivance. Anything 'authored' is contrived. If meaning is implanted, intended, then it is contrived and it is a lie. This is all fine and what we've learned to expect from fiction, but when art pops up organically like the writing of schizophrenic uncles, suddenly here is something that isn't aware of it's own meaning, absolutely not-contrived, allowed to just be without expectation. There is something appealing about that to me. You get to experience art without worrying about questioning the artist's intent. You except it as intenionless. It is refreshing. I want to read that kind of stuff.

Ani Smith said...

Extracting the meaning from text is completely up to the reader. Pillow birds meant nothing to those editors, but maybe if I read the story, they would mean something to me. And it may not necessarily be what you meant (if anything at all) when you wrote it, Blake.

Molly's example of Ironhead doesn't speak to me (though I have not read the story, maybe if I did that would change), because even though ironheads don't exist in 'reality' the meaning behind it is too obvious. It is beautiful surreal imagery no doubt, but the 'fitting in' theme has been done to death. (Not to pick on you Molly, it was just a very good example.)

That is my opinion, me, the reader, my perception, my taste. I am ascribing the meaning to it, without having even read it! But more importantly, without being able to ask the author what she meant.

The fact that I can post a comment here or email Blake and ask 'what the fuck? pillow birds? what are you talking about?' is what changes everything.

This is a great post, Blake. I think the thing is, with any kind of writing, you can't control or even predict how readers are going to interpret your words, no matter how much or how little obvious meaning you try to impart.

To reject you on that basis was silly. It would have been good enough to just say, I'm sorry Blake, this piece didn't speak to me. Try again.


i cant get behind the discrediting of a schizo uncle simply because he 'does not know what he is making'

i think great art comes from anything, does not need to know why it is being made etc

i am more interested in art that does not know what it is in creation (which by no means does not mean that it means nothing or that the author didn't 'design' it intuitively or other)

i simply think the human brain is too specificly geared and the more you can remove yourself from it, the more you get into things that are new and exciting, rather than just rehashings of themes that have been used for years.

ie: when i said every story had not been told, that was outside theme. every designed theme has most certainly been used, and to death.

it is only in the germination of new language and image at the same time that you can say anything new, and i believe that

Molly Gaudry said...

"it is only in the germination of new language and image at the same time that you can say anything new, and i believe that"...

Anyone else out there want to lay a sloppy fat wet smacker on Blake?

Blythe Winslow said...

"I just think that fiction that isn't exploring what it means to be human today isn't art," is a quote by David Foster Wallace that I truly agree with.

Hi everybody.

Foster's quote and all the posts here indicate that there actually is no disagreement. We all agree. Blake thinks he's writing about being human because being human is f-ed and gray and jumbled and sometimes meaningless (like a bird pillow). So sometimes his writing is inexplicable or haphazard or seemingly "unplanned" or "meaningless." That's craft following theme, students.

He may not be (and I'm totally just guessing and using this supposition as a way to prove a point) aware, though, that that's what he's writing about, and the story may not be aware. That's where, in Foster's quote, it's important to meditate on the word "explore," which implies intention and *AWARENESS.*

The idea, though, that I can just stream-of-consciousness type up a story without editing, revising, or even *THINKING* is impossible. Meaning is always in everything because words means things and we have a specific personality that cannot be just *removed.*

If I write a four word story: boing, boing, boing, boing, and try to publish it at _elimae_, that story does say something about humans and even me as a person. It might say I'm glib or bitter or fractured as a person. It might say I don't care what other people think. I may be aware of what I'm trying to say, but I'm not *elbowing* the reader and letting them know I know what's going on. (Here is the difference between my awareness and the story's).

SO, long story...we're really arguing over should the story be aware of its meaning, which is what Blake eluded to in the last post.

I say yes. He says no. I say yes because craft or the intention of craft is impossible to negate. If craft exists, I want there to be a reason behind each element IN ORDER TO INCLUDE THE READER IN MY MEANING AND THEREFORE HAVE RESONANCE. I do write for myself. But I also want others to be able to decode my stuff and feel something from it. I want to be aware and I want my story to be aware and I want my reader to be aware.

Otherwise I might as well be writing a diary entry or smearing my own feces on the bathroom mirror and then washing it off before anyone sees it. There's nothing at all wrong with diaries or only-for-me poop. I just don't think it constitutes art. And art, my dear friends, is definitely not the end-all. But I think it's important. Good art gets me off.

Back to Foster, RIP:
"I just think that fiction that isn't exploring what it means to be human today isn't art,"

Blythe Winslow said...

I also want to say in response to what Ani wrote here: "I think the thing is, with any kind of writing, you can't control or even predict how readers are going to interpret your words, no matter how much or how little obvious meaning you try to impart."

Hi, Ani.

To say that "you can't control how readers are going to interpret your words" is true and completely false. On one hand, reader's all have their own experiences and interpretations and symbol-decoding tendencies. But, on the other hand, to say that you can't control readers' interpretations is to say that culture does not exist. Culture is what gives us a general sense of words' connotations versus their denotations. If I make my main character namesd"Apple," then I cannot escape the idea that probably, because of the culture and country in which I live, some people might think of original sin or religion in general or health ("An apple a day..."), or teachers or a whole host of other accepted associations we've tagged the word "apple" with.

Now I'm boring myself.

But it's fun.

A few other things:

-Game theory
-the idea of art is always evolving and often set by publishers...this doesn't mean we have to subscribe to their beliefs...
-it's possible an anti-art trend in the literary "art" world is arising in which "artists" claim what they do doesn't have to be "art"...or have intention as "tradional" art does...this has been happening in the world of visual artists for a very long time


There are many more examples.

I see what I think is an illusion of transparency in contemporary literary fiction, especially on the Web. I think of Tao Lin here and what he calls, "tea towel" fiction



consciousness is not necessary to create

william burroughs didn't even know where he was when they found him in a hotel with the text all scattered around him in shit on the floor

he did not know what he was making

he was not writing to an audience

fuck an audience

if you are busy curtailing ideas so that someone will understand you, i think you are not only not saying something new, but you are underestimating the intelligence of the audience, that they can figure out what is going on, apply their own brains, make associations etc

wallace, of all, was at the forefront of this, as 'infinite jest' in particular still will take us decades to understand even an iota of a percentage of, and i say that having read it 3x

there are sections of infinite jest and other wallace writings that are just completely symbolic logic, language play, and unconnective phrases and ideas

so, while i agree with wallace on that quote, i think the idea that in order for something to be 'human' means it has to be controlled or fixed or known in the author's mind, or clearly understandable, or etc, is not only off, it's wrong

on wallace specifically, see 'church made not with hands'
'datum centurio'
'mr. squishy'

narrative = death


audiences are for TV


and baseball


and people are smart


and resonance does not come from readers, it doesn't even come from the author, i think. it comes from the thing itself

Blythe Winslow said...

If a tree falls...

Blythe Winslow said...

so, you're saying that a story, just sitting there on the table or in a book or on my computer has some kind of "vibration"? If I write ---*3# then there is resonance without audience and wihtout an understanding of what - means or * means or 3 means or # means?

Interesting. I'm very glad we're having this conversation, anyway.

And, again, game theory.

Blythe Winslow said...

Why publish? This goes back to my comment about poo and diaries.

Blythe Winslow said...

Entymology of "resonance"

1491, from M.Fr. resonance (15c.), from L. resonantia (echo) "echo," from resonare (see resound).

OK. ECHO. THIS IMPLIES that resonance comes from a source (auhtor) and can also be heard (audience...perhaps audience may be author).

Maybe what we're grappling with is a problem with definitions, which, yes, are dangerous.

Perhaps the thing has _power_ without the author and without the audience. But the word resonance...

I hope we're all having fun.

Blythe Winslow said...

me typo

Blythe Winslow said...

Hey, just so everyone knows...I've got this story that doesn't resonate with me or anyone else.
Want to publish it?

Here's more of a definition of resonance, which requires a listener and a maker:

2 a: the intensification and enriching of a musical tone by supplementary vibration b: a quality imparted to voiced sounds by vibration in anatomical resonating chambers or cavities (as the mouth or the nasal cavity) c: a quality of richness or variety d: a quality of evoking response.

UNDERLINE: THE QUALITY OF MAKING A RESPONSE. This means it's impossible for something to have resonance without an audience.

jereme said...

i'm coming in late and am sure no one gives two pubic hairs about jereme's opinion.

i like to flap my gum cakes though.

i don't understand why writing must conform to a certain style or ideology?

meaning is nice i suppose

i think the real question here is: what is the purpose of your writing?

are you writing to get published, for the plaudits, for the college girl hymen sexy times, vying for paternal acceptance, narcissistic outlet?

or are you writing because you enjoy writing, the act, the emotion, the catharsis, the self satisfaction?

if it is the latter, let your balls hang low and smooth in the day's sun. write the way you want to write.

population is massive, today's date isn't 1832, there will be an esoteric audience reading your work (if you care about audience).


i had a schizophrenic uncle also (what is it with the uncles). He died last month from colon cancer. schizophrenia is a greatly misunderstood disorder.

my uncle would often say crazy sentences, meaningless blabber, stories of bathing in sparrow mouths, ozzy osbourne adventures, angelic visitations, etc.

i dismissed him quite frequently.

one day i had an epiphany, i forget the specific circumstance, some small event, everything clicked and I understood what my schizophrenic uncle Mike was trying to convey.

I realized he wasn't yapping nonsense. i was hearing nonsense because my thought process was utterly dissimilar.

i have yet to decipher some of his conversations with the little girl he often imagined under the dinner table.

i miss him a little now that I am thinking about him.


i would like to see the text that has no resonance with anyone, yes. in fact i challenge you to write it.

that is: write it, with a process.

saying '23e' is not what i am talking about

i believe in book objects, things that have their own aura, that do not require people to see them to be what they are.

i think i'm done talking now


things can respond to themselves

humans are not required for response


you are essentially applying a value system to something that is amorphous and ever-changing.

Drew Kalbach said...

so what is the 'meaning' or 'metaphor' behind all of this struck-out text?

do you have a real world equivalent?

or are you just making it difficult to read?

questions abound


the text was struck through because i don't want to think about it anymore


and nothing is definitive

Drew Kalbach said...

oh, i thought it was a metaphor for your unceasing desire to "strike out" the homeopathic, neo-classic, and anarcho-capitalistic pressures being exerted on you by the outside writing establishment, but i guess you are "striking out" the argument, so there we go.


i feel 0 pressure yes

im not even worried about america



why publish is a fine, fine question.


jereme said...

hymen explosion

jereme said...

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jereme said...

marshmallow nipple mutilation elation

jereme said...

blake thomas butler is the 'ween' of literary endeavors

tuesdays auger: blake is pregnant

the yaz has failed

i hope i have killed the banal serious

chicken nugget eye sockets


ween sucks

chickie nuggies


everything is stupid


meow meow meow

sam pink said...

i was actually just thinking the phrase "pretty much everything is stupid" and then i thought "stupid as hell"

blake butler, i love you.


sam pink knowz everything

fuck google, ask sam pink

sam, let's get marrrieedzz

death-hustler said...

blake, are you a boss of the internet?

boss of the writing of the internet?

secret boss and boss of death?


boss of liquid titties

ken baumann said...

let's all stop thinking and just start touching things, k????