Christopher Higgs cracked open the issue of writer vs. reader with regard to "experimental fiction" in a response to my interview with Ben Marcus at HTMLgiant.
Higgs has written an interesting piece, in a series of solid examinations of experimental work, but I think it ultimately misses the heart of what Marcus was saying. There's been a lot of backlash at HTMLgiant about Marcus' comments regarding experimental fiction, "This issue of experimentalism is hollow to me." Marcus' response, it seems to me, comes from a personal place of being pegged as an "experimental" writer because his early books were not conventional. Then, upon the release of more conventional work, he was met with the complaint that his work was "not experimental enough." Higgs makes the point that these terms are useful within a greater discourse of the modes and functions of fiction, but Marcus was merely talking about his own work and his own personal reaction to the limitations dictated by his being labeled an "experimental writer." I think Marcus means that label is hollow, or has lost definition, for him. His language might have been extreme, and he has apologized for extending his own predicament on to others, "does anyone...?" But what I admire in Marcus is his efforts to write work that is new and surprising and challenging for him, and not just to write unconventional work. Has anyone here read "The Moors?" It's a great story, and Marcus' writing is full force, but it is also a very conventionally structured narrative. In the interview, he says, "In the end I want to write things that I don’t know how to write, because this seems to command the most energy and desire and attention from me. It makes me sort of sick with anxiety. When I’m uncomfortable and confused and curious I tend to try much harder to figure things out." It is this attitude that leaves me confident he will continue to make work worth reading, work that is unlike what has come before, even if it dabbles in conventional narrative structure and rejects being type-cast as experimental.
I just turned this into a proper response to Higgs' article and posted it on HTMLgiant. Sorry if you had to suffer it twice.
On another note, you can hear audio of Higgs reading last Saturday at my friend Cassandra Troyan's Ear Eater Reading Series in our very own little town of Pilsen.