Thursday, February 10, 2011

Vintage post-modernisms: on narrative

"With a pen in the hand, the narrative stream is a canal; it moves slowly, smoothly, decorously, sleepily, it has no blemish except that it is all blemish. It is too literary, too prim, too nice."

So, how to tell a story?

"... string incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and sometimes purposeless way."

That's Mark Twain, ca. 1895. His autobiography, as we now know, is conceivably a precursor to Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project.

And here's William Dean Howells on Twain's anti-narrative methodology, from a piece of writing also more than a century old:

... he was not enslaved to the consecutiveness in writing which the rest of us try to keep chained to. That is, he wrote as he thought, and as all men think, without sequence, without an eye to what went before or should come after. If something beyond or beside what he was saying occurred to him, he invited it into his page...

Make it new, already!

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