Monday, May 17, 2010

Plots are for pussies part deux

Ed here: Years ago the Farrelly brothers (mediocore but occasionally funny film makers) remarked that "plots are for pussies." If you want a more refined take on that sentiment here's a man named David Shields saying much the same thing. I will say that from time to time I do prefer non-fiction. There are small periods of time when all fiction, from great literature to detective fiction, does seem predictable and unrewarding. But that passes and I'm back to two or three novels and half a dozen stories a week. My problem with Shields' proposal is that I'm not sure his sort of anti-novel would be something you'd really want to sit down know, actually read.I picked this up on Huffington Post from a site called The Millions.

Long Live the Anti-Novel, Built from Scraps
By DAVID SHIELDS posted at 6:14 am on May 17, 2010 20

Both of my parents were journalists. My mini-rebellion was to become a fiction writer. I wrote three novels, but trying to write my fourth, I couldn’t commit the requisite resources to character and scene and plot—apparently, pretty important elements of a novel. This book, Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity, became a literary collage, and that was my Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole moment. I’ve never touched terra firma again. All of my books since have been literary collage.
I love literature, but I don’t love stories per se. I find nearly all the moves the traditional novel makes unbelievably predictable, tired, contrived, and essentially purposeless. It’s not clear to me what such narratives are supposedly revealing about the human condition.

We live in a post-narrative, post-novel world. Plots are for dead people. Novelly novels exist, of course, and whenever I’m on a plane, it’s all I see everyone reading, but they function for us as nostalgia: when we read traditional novels, we get to pretend that life is still coherent.

Twenty years ago I was hired by the University of Washington creative writing program to teach fiction. However, by the mid-1990s I had stopped writing or reading much if any fiction. I felt after a while as if I were taking money under slightly false pretenses, so in order to justify my existence to myself, my colleagues, and my students, about ten years ago I developed a course in the self-reflexive gesture in essay and documentary film. The course reader was an enormous, unwieldy, blue packet of hundreds upon hundreds of statements about nonfiction, literary collage, lyric essay. That course packet was my life raft: it was teaching me what it was I was trying to write.

for the rest go here:

-----------------------------CLOWN TIME

Most of the political sites I read cover the dumbest political commercials they can find. This is my choice for the dumbest so far. This loud mouth bully boy is laughable. I'll bet his horse can count higher than he can (Trigger could count higher than Roy.)

-----------------------------MYSTERY SCENE

Here's the url for the terrific new Mystery Scene site


Anonymous said...

I empathize with Mr. Shields. I write fiction and read nonfiction almost exclusively. Don't know why. That holds true of all forms of storytelling, including films and TV series and dramas. I rarely watch any of it. I simply feed my beast with biography and history and the news, and my fiction comes out the other end.

Max Allan Collins said...

Mr. Shields is typical of those who can't master the craft of narrative fiction, and therefore condemn it.

Most non-fiction draws upon the techniques of the novel -- a practice that began long before Capote's IN COLD BLOOD. I read a lot of non-fiction, too, but only because reading fiction is a busman's holiday for me, and also because I need to spend much of my reading time researching.

Remember if you're tempted to accept this glib appraisal of how predictable "all" fiction is that this is a writer who would condemn as "nostalgia" not only the novel and short story but film and theater.

This individual's inability to understand the function of narrative art might well extend

David Cranmer said...

Obviously, the majority of people don't think like Mr. Shields.

And I'm very grateful for that.

Anonymous said...

Re Clown Time: how appropriate that the final image is that of the horse's ass.

Jeff P.

Martin Edwards said...

I'm with Max and David on this.