[Update: Some reader comments below prompted me to write a follow-up post.]
I was asked over the summer to contribute a critical article to the online UK journal Beat the Dust; they wanted me to write on the current state of US literature. I “narrowed that down” to indy lit (small press publishing, whatever you want to call it)—still an impossibly huge topic, of course. So I ended up proposing twelve dominants that I’d argue govern the current indy lit scene (at least as best as I can see things from where I’m sitting—Chicago, USA, 2011).
“Dominant” is a term I stole from the Russian Formalists; it essentially means a feature or aspect of a text that most people feel that the text, to be valid, should demonstrate or otherwise include. (e.g., rhyme was often a dominant in English poetry until the 20th century and the advent of free verse; now the situation is mostly the opposite.) (See also this.) Below, I’ll list “my twelve” dominants, but please see the full article for a more thorough explanation…
If you think Perec’s attempt impossible (as I did), here’s an excerpt:
Noon rings out. A wasp, making an ominous sound, a sound akin to a klaxon or a tocsin, flits about. Augustus, who has had a bad night, sits up blinking and purblind. Oh what was that word (is his thought) that ran through my brain all night, that idiotic word that, hard as I’d try to pun it down, was always just an inch or two out of my grasp – fowl or foul or Vow or Voyal? – a word which, by association, brought into play an incongruous mass and magma of nouns, idioms, slogans and sayings, a confusing, amorphous outpouring which I sought in vain to control or turn off but which wound around my mind a whirlwind of a cord […]
What is perhaps more remarkable is Gibert Adair’s English translation, just excepted, of Perec’s French La Disparition. I simply don’t know how Adair was able to translate that.
I look forward to Stoffi’s rewrite of —– — —-. I can see it already:
Andrw drivs back to Domino’s.
“Matt,” h says. “Thr’s a dolphin in the backsat. Can I go hom?”
“Lt m put ths pppronis on,” Matt says. “Thn I’ll cash you out.”
Aftr bing paid sixty-cnts gas mony for ach dlivry Andrw has fourtn dollars.
“Give half to th dolphin,” Matt says.
Which reminds me of artist Brendan Lott’s sans ‘a’ The Scrlet Letter. I think I’m gonna rewrite Stephen Dixon’s I. without the ‘i.’ I challenge someone to do The Castle without the ‘K.’
This is either high-brow Wheel of Fortune, or lowbrow Jeopardy! I can’t figure it out.