Great Moments in Literature

Perhaps as a neighbor for Christopher Higgs’s “What Is Experimental Literature” series, we should compile a list of neat, uh, experiments. I’m thinking: What are your favorite tricks in literature? Let’s make a list. Here, I’ll scratch the meta surface. The comment box is “there” as a repository for your additions and complaints, as usual.

  • Vonnegut writes himself into Breakfast of Champions in order to free Kilgore Trout. Later, Kilgore Trout books are published (though not by Vonnegut).
  • Tristram Shandy (perhaps this could be a subheading)
  • The narratives of David Markson, created from seemingly unconnected notes
  • Evan Lavender-Smith’s brilliant novel ideas in From Old Notebooks, some of which I actually wish were the book instead
  • Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms referring to each other, disagreeing with each other
  • Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments sextupling the length of The Philosophical Fragments — like, “Oops, I forgot to say . . .”
  • How the page works in Mark Z. Danielewski’s Only Revolutions
  • The promotional run-up to the publication of The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney, combined with the book
  • Moby Dick (perhaps another subheading) and the re-appropriation of distinct genres within the novel
  • Melville’s The Confidence Man, specifically the chapter where the narrator breaks down the other chapters
  • The tiered question of authority in Shane Jones’s Light Boxes
  • The cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says “Don’t Panic!” just like the book says it does
  • How the aunts and uncles comment on the action in TS Eliot’s The Family Reunion
  • In Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco, Jean and Berenger discuss Ionesco’s plays. Jean says, “There’s one playing right now. You should take advantage of it.”
  • The breakdown Robert endures in the Bear Parade version of Zachary German’s Eat When You Feel Sad
  • Pale Fire: unreliable narrator, form
  • Shakespeare making his characters make plays all the time
  • The mind-blowing first issue of Sidebrow, which links the different stories and poems to each other so they complete/play off each other
  • Jamie Iredell alphabetizing traditional book elements in The Book of Freaks (e.g. the Index comes in the middle of the book)
  • What happened to Ben Marcus’s dictionary in The Age of Wire and String?
  • The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
  • Ken Sparling’s book,
  • The dilapidation of Quentin’s narration in The Sound and the Fury until it breaks off at his suicide
  • Chronology in Catch-22
  • The beginning of Frankenstein
  • The interaction between the old traditional novelist and the young-buck experimental writer in James Michener’s indispensable novel, The Novel
  • Great Expectations in Kathy Acker’s Great Expectations
  • Borges, geez, in particular “Pierre Menard, author of Don Quixote”
  • Borges, geez, in particular “The Library of Babel”
  • Rachel Glaser’s repurposed text from Little Women in the story “The Magic Umbrella”
  • Lucky’s speech in Waiting for Godot
  • Clov turning the binoculars on the audience and saying, “I see a multitude, in transports of joy”
  • The part in Toby Olson’s otherwise conventional novel, Seaview, when the protagonist crawls inside his golf bag
  • The way Michael Kimball tells the way the family gets away in The Way the Family Got Away
  • (Spoiler) In I Am the Cheese, the kid was institutionalized the whole time.
  • The characters’ vernacular in Tortilla Flat
  • Blake Butler’s Copy Family
  • Douglas Rushkoff’s open-source novel, Exit Strategy, which includes footnotes written by readers online
  • The margins of Douglas Coupland’s novel, Generation X
  • Kerouac’s breakdown at the end of Big Sur
  • Master and Margarita, specifically the Grand Inquisitor part
  • Dorothea Lasky’s poem, “It’s a Lonely World,” which begins, “It’s a lonely world/Hi everybody/It’s Dorothea, Dorothea Lasky”
  • Lu Xun’s story “A Madman’s Diary” and its unbelievably believable ambiguity
  • Borges, geez, in particular “The Garden of Forking Paths”
  • In Jude the Obscure, their eldest son’s name is “Little Father Time.” WTF?”
  • The word “exalted” vs. “exulted” in Hemingway’s story “Indian Camp”
  • Donald Westlake’s story, “No Story,” which presents only the frame for how a story was discovered
  • “Do you see? Good is dead” on the (literal) side of the page in Chip Kidd’s The Cheese Monkeys
  • and that issue of McSweeney’s that has the David Foster Wallace story on the spine
  • The alphabetized stories and novel of Andy Devine
  • The Beauty of the Husband, by Anne Carson, being a poem while being an essay while telling the story of a marriage

Work tirelessly, at a feverish pace.