big time cat fancier


"All this makes sentences so clear I know how I like them."

From "The Sentence is a Lonely Place," by Gary Lutz; The Believer (Jan. 2009)
It took me almost another decade after graduate school to figure out what writing really is, or at least what it could be for me; and what prompted this second lesson in language was my discovery of certain remaindered books—mostly of fiction, most notably by Barry Hannah, and all of them, I later learned, edited by Gordon Lish—in which virtually every sentence had the force and feel of a climax, in which almost every sentence was a vivid extremity of language, an abruption, a definitive inquietude. These were books written by writers who recognized the sentence as the one true theater of endeavor, as the place where writing comes to a point and attains its ultimacy. As a reader, I finally knew what I wanted to read, and as someone now yearning to become a writer, I knew exactly what I wanted to try to write: narratives of steep verbal topography, narratives in which the sentence is a complete, portable solitude, a minute immediacy of consummated language—the sort of sentence that, even when liberated from its receiving context, impresses itself upon the eye and the ear as a totality, an omnitude, unto itself. I once later tried to define this kind of sentence as “an outcry combining the acoustical elegance of the aphorism with the force and utility of the load-bearing, tractional sentence of more or less conventional narrative.” The writers of such sentences became the writers I read and reread. I favored books that you could open to any page and find in every paragraph sentences that had been worked and reworked until their forms and contours and their organizations of sound had about them an air of having been foreordained—as if this combination of words could not be improved upon and had finished readying itself for infinity.

I read this article every couple of months to keep writing what will now be referred to as (as K. Silem Mohammad put it) Conceptual Prose. I don't really want to be think about FICTION. That word makes me think of all those awful New York Times Bestsellers littering nearly every bookstore where I live. I want "every sentence [to have] the force and feel of a climax, in which almost every sentence was a vivid extremity of language, an abruption, a definitive inquietude."

I'm tired of Beige Prose. I want to read books by authors who get inside their sentences. How many authors would screw up the whole plot of their novel/story just to make one sentence more beautiful? Those authors that will are the ones I'm interested in. Too often when I go into a bookstore I just feel like shaking my head after looking around the Fiction section.

If I'm being really honest, I should tell you, I want FICTION to be POETRY. That's why I like Kasey's title "Conceptual Fiction." Blake Butler, Shane Jones, Deb Olin Unferth, Amy Hempel, Donald Barthelme, and Chelsea Martin; are just some the people I see doing this.

This is not to say I don't like Hemingway. I love Hemingway, but I think his style is interesting partly because of its historical context. At the time people were like, Holy Fuck what is Hemingway doing? This isn't how people write! There was chaos in the streets, people were flogged for sure. It was new! He was taking risks.

The world continues to change and I think modern writing should be written in a way that reflects the constantly mediated experience of modern existence. Or something. I want abruption!

A sentence makes them all not an avoidance of difficulty. A sentence is this. They never think before hand if they do they lay carpets. Lay carpets is never a command. You can see that a sentence has no mystery. A mystery would be a reception. They receive nothing. In this way if it finishes. This is so obviously what they will do. Obviously what they will do is no mistake because we did not know it. We did not know it is not a mistake either. Leave it alone is not theirs as a mistake. Artificially is what they call when they call out. Who knows how many have been careful. Sentences are made wonderfully one at a time. Who makes them. Nobody can make them because nobody can what ever they do see. --- Gertrude Stein

1 comment:

  1. Alex, you are a soldier. I have read this essay countless times and it is one of the shrewdest and most eloquent essays on writing that I know of. Lutz is finally going to do some reading in New York, I would love to see him. Good luck with this new endeavor!