April 14th, 2011 / 11:59 am

On “Pushcorpse”

The experiment that was “Pushcorpse,” organized (and conceived?) by Shya Scanlon, is now published in No Colony 3. 65 writers all writing the same story, or rather pushing its corpse forward.

Reading it now, no longer as 1/65 of a contributor but just a casual reader, in its final No Colony resting place, what I found to be a curious aspect was that it served as a microcosm for the flow of memes. The one meme that holds on throughout is the Ginger meme. Remember that there was no obligation on the part of anyone to keep any character as a protagonist, yet Ginger continued to fill the role, despite efforts to kill her (often in grotesque description). Yet after she would die she would be back at the bar again a few paragraphs later. The plot summary seems to be Ginger at a bar while 65 people impose their will upon her, often killing her, but in doing so over and over again, keep her alive.

The whole work is an unusual example of metafiction. A reader is constantly aware of the struggle of too many people trying to direct the flow of something. There was meta-self-deprecation when writers felt the work as a whole was not meeting their expectations. The use of STOP became a meme as people became frustrated at the flow and wanted to abruptly change it. There is a moment when the meta element becomes literal (Ginger actually becomes one of the 65 and is trying to decide what to write) and from that point on, the work’s meta-ness becomes a meme and it all ends on this note.

There seemed to be two conflicting mindsets amongst the 65. One was to try to find the plot and continue it, while the other was to obliterate the plot and force everything into a completely new box. This latter tendency resulted in writers trying very hard to create new memes that would pervade the rest of the story. And it happened sometimes. There is a moment where a writer is musing on the lack of character names such as Chris and Stephanie, then a few pages later characters named Chris and Stephanie show up. The word “retarded” became an unintentional meme, as it was used once, then another writer chastised the use of the word “retarded,” then retarded shows up five or six times again throughout the rest of the story. I found myself looking for the origins of memes and trying to understand why it became successful. One that I traced back was “Akron, Ohio.” I didn’t understand why this kept showing up because it wasn’t interesting in and of itself. But it’s origin was this really funny paragraph, completely unrelated to the Ginger storyline, that referred to Akron Ohio as a city of alcoholics… “Residents called “Akronites” or “Alcoholics” or variations: “Akroholics,” “Alcoholonites.” I remember laughing out loud at that whole paragraph, and it’s ability to infuse itself into the story as a meme later on was a show of how good the writing was.

I found myself laughing out loud often. There is an absurdist humor that works due to the rapidly changing context. This changing context also made it a vibrant, non-boring read. The direction changed so dramatically and so often, there wasn’t time to get bored, it was just new thing after new thing after new thing.

“Pushcorpse” is obviously not great literature, but it shouldn’t be read that way. It was an experiment. It is experimental literature.


Darby Larson is the author of The Iguana Complex.

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  1. Ken Baumann

      Excellent. Thank you, Darby.

  2. douglas riggs

      This sounds fascinating.

  3. Tim Jones-Yelvington
  4. darby

      if pushcorpse is kitsch, what is the original version, or what is it imitating? i cant think of another example of literature that exploits conflictual collaboration. no intention is different than unoriginal intention.

  5. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I was thinking about memes and repetitions and copies of copies of copies that unleash contagion that corrupts and lays waste to the “authentic,” or rather exposes the “authentic” as always already contaminated. Copies of copies for which there is no original, so yes, exactly, nothing is being imitated but the imitation.

  6. darby

      ah. neat thinking!

  7. Sean

      Why don’t you fuckers play disc golf?

  8. cdamson

      Ginger should become a meme outside of “Pushcorpse.”

  9. deadgod

      – here on Gilligan’s isle!

  10. deadgod

      “kitsch” =? ‘every thing that is or can be repeated, copied, imitated, or reproduced’

      that “every thing” is ‘everything, except nothing exactly’

      what’s gained conceptually by making “kitsch” an Everything-and-Nothing word?

  11. Anonymous
  12. Amy

      The original, the ur of the collaborative kitsch, many decades and many layers of kitchery removed:

      Which itself was an imitation of a then-trend in literature. We are so meta we don’t even know what we’re metastasizing anymore.

  13. deadgod

      Here is a little more historical palinstasis on the idear: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exquisite_corpse .

      ‘Exquisite corpse’ is the categorical name I’d generally heard, and I had guessed that the Pushcorpse corps were referring to this phrase with their title.

  14. deadgod

      Here is a little more historical palinstasis on the idear: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exquisite_corpse .

      ‘Exquisite corpse’ is the categorical name I’d generally heard, and I had guessed that the Pushcorpse corps were referring to this phrase with their title.

  15. deadgod

      My One More Step_ just now was

      sinsin Absurd.

      Those filtration tests really should be collected – for aesthetic appreciation, of course.

  16. Aaron Gilbreath

      totally forgot we did this, and how funny it was.

  17. rawbbie

      re-vamping my CV and forgot that I did this…