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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Rarefied Literature Deserving to be Read

I took stock of my reading list/pile/heap and realized a good deal of my interest lies with metafiction. The latest book has been The Death of the Novel and Other Stories by Ronald Sukenick, 1932-2004. The link takes you to a google book where you can read some of it. This is one of those books that prompts me to think about all sorts of things related to style, structure, storytelling, and writing in general. Apparently half the book is a transcription of conversations that were tape recorded, not my favorite parts, and the rest more conventionally structured prose. The latter should be required reading.

Sukenick says he wants to write a story with infolding and outfolding, and he achieves it. Stories move forward in a highly educated stream of consciousness but then they loop back around, revisiting threads and following tangents. What I like best in today's climate is how he really redefines a story in a hypernarrative form -- nearest in intent and style are, in my recent memory, works by Metcalf and Michaels, and a short work by Acker in Biting the Error. If editors want to get an idea what a story can be -- they keep asking for stories that take risks -- they'd do well to read this book.

The Birds is a hilarious end to the book and it includes one of the funnier little quips I've read in a while. I'll try to remember it exactly: Q. What is the defining characteristic of the Bald Eagle? A. Its balls.