Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#85 Tables...

This song has been stuck in my head for two days now.  Real playful like.

Come see the reading on Friday.

I'm currently having an email debate with Drew Burk about what makes a novel a for me, but maybe not a terribly productive conversation on a blog...

I presented a talk with Benjamin Chaffee at a conference at the University of North Texas this last weekend.  After the conference there was a Q&A with the visiting writers: Kyle Minor, Alex Lemon, Vanessa Place, Christine Sneed, and John D'Agata.

During the Q&A, there was a lot of time spent on trying to figure out what work lies in which category or genre and how exactly to define each category or genre and on and  on until finally Vanessa came out with something along the lines of, "Well the question is who cares, right?"  Not a flippant comment, but meant to emphasize the futility of this kind of conversation.  What's more interesting is what does it do to call your work a novel, rather than is it or is it not a novel?  What does it do to call a collection of court transcriptions poetry, rather than is it poetry?

Because a set definition of a genre only serves to establish a set of tired rules, anyone with even the tiniest innovative bone in their body would then examine, question or disrupt, rather than adhere to blindly, ignorantly.

Not arguing that the genre or "label" or tradition is insignificant, only that we should be more concerned with it as an element in the work, how it shapes the work in the same way we would consider the title or each and every sentence.

It's an argument for responsibility in the work.  An argument not for adhering to a long-standing definition, but situating the work alongside those ideas intentionally as an element in something that, hopefully, brings some new ideas to the table...


PS - Here are a couple "search terms" that apparently led people to this site:

"difficult fiction"

"colin winnette strays"


1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with your argument on the subject of genre, novel, novella, poetry... and now there's people trying to beat that labeling of literate jive by calling a work stories, or journal and it'll be fiction. It just gets lumped into some pot anyway. I've been mulling over the creamy-steamy-subject of what genre is lately, in particular because I'm all over the place with medium and style. Recently I've been calling everything I produce "poetry." I agree mostly with using style as an element in work. The idea of a genre is kind of meta or conceptual now. I think even fiction, poetry, novel, sci/fi all those genre's and sub genres from maybe the past 30 years posses more self awareness of the form, using it as a device for the work instead of just using the rules as a grid sheet for what makes a book a book.

    I'm curious on the discussion you've been having on what makes a novel... What does Burk think a novel is? For me a novel is simply something people read, a stop sign to me is a novel. A novel experience, WHA-ZOOOO!