The new JMWW is a mind-fuck. How so? It gives us an essay (“MFA my way: In Writing, As in Life, You Must Have Character“) by Christine Stewart. She drops us three rules to creating literary work that will, in her words, “…makes my heart beat faster, that promises to cast a spell over me.” This advice:
How to do this? It’s pretty simple but I see people forget these basics all the time:
1) You must have a good handle on your main character.
2) Your main character must want something.
3) Your main character must do something.
I find Stewart’s “cast a spell over me” requirements as a worthy goal for a book. I also look for this type of literature, but I respectfully disagree with Stewart’s advice on how to create such a thing. While I have certainly dropped into fictional dreams due to character development, I have also been spun into spells by glow arrangements of words. Possibly I am confused on genre. Stewart opens with a poetry group situation, but is maybe writing only about mainstream fiction? Anyway, this is why JMWW is a mind-fuck. It’s an interesting essay to place along works (see below, among others) that do not meet the character sketch, character driven, character-with-clear motivation template. This juxtaposition fascinated me, and made for a verve/swerve issue. Click.
That We Never Knew This Reaches Upward, Assists the Room Grew by Andrew Borgstrom
From Michael Palmer vs. Michael Palmer (2) by Michael Leong
Damper by Cooper Renner
Ark Codex 0-01-08 by (?)
Here’s a confession: I look for metaphors in real life, like how maybe the way people tie their shoes under their desks represents their baser instincts, suppressed in corporate life. As a reader, writer, double-ended-candle-stick-burner, too often I look for metaphors about the effect or state or future of online literary publishing. I am a twenty-something luddite, reaching through the din of electronic narrative to find a reason not to ignore it, a reason why the ‘pages’ of the world wide web should affect me just as much as the ‘pages’ of real-life-paper-cutting-dog-ear-able books.
The first time I read Andrew Borgstrom’s “571 Points,” it disguised itself as a metaphor for internet literature. Each line translated into another answer, another echo for my interminable questions.
“We walked our final street like mathematicians writing poetry with our bare bodies.” Math! I think. Computer programming! Zeros and ones, and this website I am reading, when boiled down, stripped to its elements is all numbers, formulas, becoming poetry before my eyes. I begin to read faster as I become fluent in Borgstom’s particular language of mathematics and poetry.
“I did not purposefully hide the flyer…My subconscious purposefully hid the flyer because it hides all flyers and not because it has anything against riding in free hay.” Of course it did! I cry, how could one recognize the posters or billboards or informational tomes that really mattered if one did not allow their subconscious to consciously hide the flyers, the pop-ups, the free hay of internet activity? To steer away from the PoetryHourlyDigest or Best-Flash-Fiction-Of-the-Second email alerts.
“We searched for horseshit in the road,” he writes and I know that anyone skimming the Internet for clarity or truth or just a god-damned answer to a basic question of how-to or how-come understands this ancient quest.
“I managed to say nothing in thirty-three syllables.” Blogs! Twitter! What I write all the time without pretending it is literary while still trying to decide for myself where the line is drawn. At least he is self-aware, though? He knows he is saying nothing. Commenter 56 has no such self-awareness.
But alas, “Where had all the horseshit gone?” Now he is supplementing the percentage of cotton in her shirts–nay, supplementing the lack of venerable online writing with writing of his own, his own contribution. He is too deep in the horseshit to smell it. Or has he transformed the horseshit into manure?
“You kept adding water to dilute the flavor. We figured everything had a solution.” Water….dilute…solution. Wordplay. Satisfying. Short-lived.
Towards the end, he is eating his words. “You taught me how to spell interminable. I dog-eared the page. I ate the page.” Not the page he wrote, but that he adopted. That he learned and understood. And here I get tongue-tied. This is no metaphor. This is a racquetball court with no one’s footprints on it but everyone he has never loved. This is a super-sad-fictional-love-story. On the internet. One that has made me reach into my own needs to create within it a metaphor for what I needed to be explained the most at the moment I read it. What is more literary than that?