Friday, November 10, 2006

Writing Should Be Spectacle,
First and Foremost

My friend and fellow writer, D., voices an important response in defense of conventional storytelling in the comment section of my previous post. Although he and I disagree wholeheartedly as to the merit of such writing, I believe in nothing if not dissent, and so I take his opposing viewpoint as I always have, with much respect.

The part of his comment which I found most interesting was when he wrote: “Danielewski piles experiment on top of experiment and metafictional layer upon metafictional layer, so that perhaps its brilliance is in accumulation. Again, acrobatics; the pleasure is all buried in a kind of "Look Ma, no hands!" quality.”

Yes!!! That is precisely what I love about his work! Why? Because I believe in showing off. I believe in drawing attention to the writing itself, in tricks for the sake of tricks, in audacious and rambunctious exhibitions of imagination. I believe in spectacle. This is what I love about writing: not story, but spectacle. I want to be shocked and surprised. I want to be baffled. I do not want to be lulled into some catatonic dream; I want to be electrocuted. I want to experience something I never could have imagined possible.

Think about it in terms of basketball: I don’t want to go to a game where each team plays solid defense, runs effective plays, hits the appropriate jumpers, etc. No! I want Kobe Bryant showboating, spinning, dazzling, splitting a triple team and plunging to the hoop from the three point line and slam dunking it behind his back.

That’s what I want in fiction!

In closing, I will leave you with something that one of my greatest literary heroes, John Hawkes, once said: "I began to write fiction on the assumption that the true enemies of the novel were plot, character, setting and theme, and having once abandoned these familiar ways of thinking about fiction, totality of vision or structure was really all that remained."