1. joelpatterson
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    joelpatterson Member

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    Minimalist, nearly "haiku" experimental book...

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by joelpatterson, Feb 11, 2011.

    I am wondering what y'all think about this...?

    Way back in 1983, I decided it would be worthwhile to create a work of pseudo-fiction that would capture the reality of life in the world of 1983, being very conscious of a prior work, 1984.

    But I wanted something that would be different... something that would convey, in a stream-of-consciousness way, what it was like to be alive in 1983 and be considering the current state of affairs.

    I was after a deeply personalized, intuitive kind of effect... and what I ended up with was page after page of single sentences, sometimes fragments of a sentence... without explanation.

    An example: The text of the first page reads: "It fills the silence, it fills the breath. It informs everything, and everything hence."

    Pretty abstract-- until you realize I am referring to the murder of John Lennon, a pivotal event from 1980.

    And it goes on and on like that. Now-- is this just strictly a secret testimony of my own, unique experience? Or is there any way that a readership could understand or appreciate it?

    Two more, random pages: "The end of an era is calling... should I take a message?"

    And: "Party like it's 1999. One day, it will be."

    What does everyone think?
     
  2. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

    It sounds opaque enough to be, as you put it, "a secret testimony of [your] own, unique experience."

    Stream-of-consciousness works when the character has a strong personality and when there is still some kind of coherent plot. A hundred pages of disconnected thoughts and observations does not a story make. Right now, I don't know enough to be able to tell if your project is a story like Catcher in the Rye, where everything the reader gets goes through the character's thoughts first, but there is still a definite series of events and a plotline, or if your project is just a rambling mess.

    Experimental works, almost by definition, are attempts to do something different and neat -- to push the boundaries of what fiction can do. If On a Winter's Night a Traveler is a great example of a successful experiment, as are Catcher in the Rye, The Princess Bride, and Neil Gaiman's short story "Pages from a Journal Found in a Shoebox . . ." But often, such works fail miserably. And if nothing else, it's difficult to predict in advance whether experimental works will succeed or fail horribly.

    Keep in mind, brief descriptions are not good substitutes for the work itself. Based on what you've said, I personally would download the Amazon free sample for my Kindle, but I would not expect the book to be good enough to actually buy. That's because it isn't clear that there's a story here.

    Among other things, I wasn't alive in 1980; I can't know what it's like to live through Lennon's death. And I have lived through 1999, so I'm unlikely to find a "let's hope for the new millenium!" vibe to be relevant to my life.

    Worse for this story, though, is my intelligence. I am very smart (there's no way to say this humbly) and I have read many thousands of books in my lifetime. So if I read the first page and find that it goes on and on about something the writer thinks important, but not quite important enough to define, I am likely to conclude that I am reading the novel equivalent of a disorganized essay, and I'll stop.

    Remember, this is just my first impression based on a very short description and a few sample lines. (For obvious reasons, sample lines simply do not contain enough information or context to represent a whole book, either positively or negatively.)

    I wish you the best of luck with this project, whether your goals are to print a few copies up by computer to share with friends, to keep the story to yourself, or to be published through a New York publishing house. If you want more specific information about your story, you might consider posting a short excerpt somewhere in the WritingForums "Review Room," after doing two critiques yourself to get a general feel for how critiquing works.
     
  3. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    To be honest based on the above info, a book filled with
    that 'going by the John Lennon example' looks like they only make sense to their author, would not appeal to me.

    However that being said, what do I know? Maybe I'm missing something.
    Being that you have all the info there - type it out and have a go at getting it published.

    What have you got to lose?
     
  4. joelpatterson
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    joelpatterson Member

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    Thanks for the feedback! You're making me realize that specific cultural references are going to make for a narrow field of vision... the idea of annotating it crossed my mind once...

    ... and everything hence.*

    * The murder of John Lennon outside his New York City apartment building in December 1980 sent a shockwave of grief & disbelief felt 'round the world.

    But then, obviously, the annotated versions of things are usually reserved for highly popular works-- in this case it would probably come across more as "needing to explain the joke," which would carry an edge of the pathetic, no doubt.

    Also, this was done in a pre-internet, pre-digital, pre-modern world era. The way a reader would need to flip, physically, each single page, that was a big part of the design-- you're forced to linger on a page as you absorb its meaning. And then, the cover-- how I was going to get any publisher to bind it with slices of cedar wood, with the "1983" characters hollowed out... I don't know if I've ever seen that done, before or since.
     

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