Verbatim: A Novel

Notes on an unconventional book

On the “E” word

The word ‘experimental’ has come up around my novel, usually said with some understanding, but I suspect that the odd form of the book has put off the more conventional-minded reviewers. (Such as those used by newspapers.) Yet the first novelist, whoever that might be, was an experimental writer. We think of experiments as things that might work, whereas Gabriel Josipovici’s books do work, just like Alexandra Chasin’s Kissed By, and the works of David Markson, Raymond Queneau, Mati Unt, etc. Maybe it’s time to shelve the label experimental novel. An experimental writer goes about his or her business of expressing their thoughts, communicating ideas, in their own aesthetic way, which is not a dissimilar process from mainstream writers who favour plot and character. Why do we choose to segregate writers?

Many critics react with fright and bewilderment, or hostility, when faced with ‘the new.’ You’d think the world might collapse because a novel came out told only in dialogue, say. The ratio of press experimental books get in the review columns of journals and daily or weekend papers compared to the space devoted to books issued at the same time that are written by mainstream writers works to the advantage of the mainstream. Over-reaction by conservative-minded critics to the existence of something that may be difficult indicates that there’s a strong dislike, personally and institutionally, of any wide deviation from the “ready-made” novel, as Josipovici puts it in What Ever Happened to Modernism? Curtis White, in Monstrous Possibility, offers this view:

“For the confrontation between realism and ‘experimentalism’ is not only a narrow, provincial, literary dispute, it is also part of a broader ideological battle between not necessarily but factually combative epistemologies. Realism has become a State Fiction, a part of the machinery of the political state. It is through the conventions of Realism that the State explains to its citizens the relationship between themselves and Nature, economics, politics, and their own sexuality… What postmodernism has done and continues to do is oppose any totalizing fiction of life, that which, in Calvino’s words, seeks ‘to confirm and consecrate the established order of things.’”

What does the mainstream have to fear when the bulk of literature is not considered experimental? Their response is like that of a cartoon elephant leaping on top of a table at the sight of a mouse. Maybe authority (the established order) doesn’t want too many opposing views.

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3 Comments

  Jenn_ wrote @

Speaking of “e” words, is Verbatim available as an e-book anywhere?

  JB wrote @

Jenn, hello. Thanks for the comment.

No, my book isn’t available as an ebook. Instead, it’s a very handsome layout of various fonts, dual columns, and more, on nice paper in a durable binding, with a well-designed cover. I don’t think any of Enfield & Wizenty’s books are e-books; this book might not look so readable as an e-book, come to think of it.

Having said all that, I hope you’re not discouraged from picking up a copy.

Thanks again for visiting this site, and for your interest.

Jeff

  Jenn_ wrote @

Ah. I hadn’t considered the formatting as being detrimental to the e-book experience. You are probably right–I can’t imagine two columns on my reader (especially as I have it set to extra-large and still need my glasses, LOL)


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