1. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Surrealism

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Killer300, May 11, 2011.

    Okay, I've always been curious about the genre of surrealism, and has one goes about writing it. So, has anyone here written a surrealist piece before? Do you have favorite surrealist stories? I'm curious because... it's the ultimate in uniquely bizarre literature to say the least.
     
  2. thalorin19
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    thalorin19 Member

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    I always thought Surrealism was a form of art...like paintings and such.


    Wouldn't it just be like really weird literature? Like, throw a Tim Burton movie into words or whatever.
     
  3. Leatherworth Featherfist
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    Leatherworth Featherfist Member

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    From my understanding, surrealism has to do with examining the unconscious mind, and what it's capable of creating. In music and painting I think it's easier to apply this method of composition. With writing I find that if I'm trying to be surreal, I am just free writing, which has it's perks, but I usually categorize it as poetry.
     
  4. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    I agree. Best place to do this is in poetry. I guess you could do it in a short story. For me, to do it in a novel would be crazy unless maybe it was a play or something. I just could not keep the surreal image consistent without lots of notes and if I used notes then it would not be surreal :p .

    I think the best example of surreal writing would be Alice in Wonderland.
     
  5. Leatherworth Featherfist
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    Leatherworth Featherfist Member

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    As far as I know, you're right. I enjoyed reading Alice in Wonderland, and I tried to mimic the tone a few times, but when I tried this my story turned into poetry. Which is fine, but it frustrates me because I like the surreal style that Alice in Wonderland portrays, and I wish I could write like that while keeping a story line running.
     
  6. challas
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    challas Member

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    Alice in Wonderland isn't exactly surrealism, though it is certainly strange.

    For surrealism, see Andre Breton who wrote the Surrealism Manifesto. He defines surrealism as something like "automatic writing" where rather than think about what to write, you let the words pour out without inhibitions. He describes the moments of lucid thought right before you fall asleep as the goal of what to shoot for.

    Henry Miller is a good surrealist author, check out Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. National West was also influenced by French Surrealism. Check out The Day of the Locust. It conveys the detachement of surrealism very well.

    Also some of Jack Kerouac's work, I would argue, could be considered surrealist. His literary stlye was an influenced and at times an emulation of bebop jazz, the "free form" jazz movement where musicians began playing outside the limits of regular chord structures and experimenting with radically new styles of improvising.
     
  7. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Keep wondering if the OP meant Bizarro, or just really weird fantasy.

    I mean, surrealist fiction is almost a misnomer, imo.
     
  8. Leatherworth Featherfist
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    Leatherworth Featherfist Member

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    It is a misnomer. Surrealism has nothing to do with labeling, unless those labels make no sense. "Skiba fraba genesis!" According to surrealism, you cannot explain it, you can only expierience it, and upon expierience it you can't explain it yourself. However, your unconscious mind can. Surrealism is a very open subject. I find it difficult to talk about.
     
  9. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Surrealism requires such passive, inactive processing to be effective (imo). Fiction is so active and conscious. I mean, maybe if something was designed to be read to someone else, the secondary person listening to the piece would then be experiencing surrealist fiction? Imo surrealism works best with visual mediums, especially with more contemporary definitions of surrealism that have really gotten out there, well beyond the early stuff, having to keep pushing the envelope to still have any effect at all.

    Hrm, thinking about it, E. E. Cummings might be the closest thing to a surrealist writer, at least how I personally see it. As many of his poems had visual aspects that the reader was getting meanings almost subconsciously that they didn't realize with the conscious reading/viewing of the poem.

    Then again, my personal view on surrealism is more than just 'looks really weird' though many have that perspective, and a lot of fiction falls into the category of simply being weird.
     
  10. Isismoon
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    Isismoon New Member

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    The stories I write are extremely surreal and they always turn into dark fairytales. Like Pan's Labyrinth, you know that style but obviously written, not in movie form. I find the best way to describe a surreal scene is to use lots and lots of adjectives and metaphors. It can be done. Good luck.
     
  11. AvihooI
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    AvihooI Member

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    Surrealism means "beyond realism" or "above realism". Anything that appears real but on the same level implausible. I guess in writing this can be interpreted in many different ways.

    Had I written surrealistic fiction, I would have probably made the world as realistic as possible (nothing magical, paranormal or fantastical). However, the underlying social rules would have been altered to a point they immediately appear to be surreal - of course, to serve the purpose of the story.
     
  12. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    I started reading my first bizarro book and i can't say that i'm overly impressed by it. It can be funny in parts but i think because there are just too many ideas floating around with little application to the plot that it becomes a bit tedious and seems like the author thought it up on the spot and just rolled with it
     
  13. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Keep trying. Depends on the writer and style, of course. Just like some literary is boring, and some is actually just really good Bizarro (like in the case of George Saunders, who I would argue is at times boarderline Bizarro through and through, just so happens he's really good so gets published in the New Yorker and whatnot).
     
  14. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    I picked up a Carlton Mellick III book because i read somewhere that he was one of the leading authors of bizarro, so i'm not sure how he compares to other authors of the same genre. if i was to find a book by Saunders which one would you recommend? Cheers in advance :)
     
  15. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Ah, I've heard he's good too, but haven't gotten to it. It's the sort of thing that happens in a lot of genres, though, where those working in the genre are usually not quite as good, perhaps, as those that have transcended the genre.

    George Saunders, for instance, has a story called Sea Oak that has all sorts of bizarro ideas and themes and whatnot. It's just that he's good enough to get published in top journals, so is suddenly not bizarro, and is instead 'literary.' His collection Pastoralia is said to be good (haven't read it, yet). CivilWarLand in bad decline was good overall, as expected some stories better than others, involving lite sci-fi, mutants, ghosts, all sorts of weird stuff (but always making a point and containing meaning).

    Karen Russell is another. She's not 'fantasy' so much as magic-realism, but writes about some pretty weird, bizarro-style things. She's just so amazing and tight as a writer she gets published in top journals and anthologies, so isn't really pushing envelopes just to be different and controversial (like a lot of bizarro that usually ends up being the worst, as the point becomes to shock, not to tell a meaningful story), but is definitely weird and different and drawing from what became Bizarro.

    It's always an interesting thing, because while I respect underground cult sort of movements, in some ways these days they're backwards. It used to be that a movement spawned mainstream copycats that would make it successful, but it seems these days often mainstream (or at least successful) writers who're doing their own thing then spawn an artificial movement, hoping if they label their work as a genre and market the genre specifically, it'll give them more credibility.

    But yeah, Bizarro fiction is just sort of a marketing movement like so many today, and a lot of it is so self-consciously aware that it sort of falls flat to me. Like the second you can label a writer as 'bizarro' and claim they're part of a market, then imo something is lost. That's why I mention writers like George Saunders, who have what could be bizarro aspects and styling, but isn't any such genre or market, and is simply George Saunders. But, I figure if you want high quality, bizarre fiction, he is certainly at times that, though the bizarro genre is almost in itself becoming so self-defined and labeled as to be meaningless at this point, and not really pushing bounds anymore. It's like, when you can define something, it's already dead and time to move on. But that's all a greater discussion, I suppose, just like how surrealism has to keep getting more surrealistic, as what was once surreal seems mundane to the next generation of surrealists.
     
  16. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    Totally agree with you here. I think, looking now, if i'd just read the book i'd bought without doing any reading into bizarro fiction as a genre, then i probably would have enjoyed it much more than i did. Because this way i'd have been going to read it without any pre-conceived notions in my head about what it would contain. When I actually did read it, i thought the author was just being weird for the sake of being weird, without any real substance behind it. But like you said, if you limit something by just labelling it as 'weird' then there is no real movement to expand and it takes away from the whole experience. i'll definitely go about looking up some work of Saunders and see how he compares, but thanks!
     
  17. RG85
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    popsicledeath - I think you're misunderstanding the intentions of the bizarro genre. It was created by publishers to give readers a category for weird fiction, so that new works of strange fiction would be easier to find. It was also created so that authors of weird fiction would have a better chance of finding an audience. There aren't any rules/definitions/limitations of the genre. The only requirement is that the work has to be too weird to be labeled anything else. The authors just write what they normally would have been writing. They don't write to fit into the genre or anything. It's not a movement, it's a subgenre. It's only referred to as a movement sometimes because there is a very vibrant bizarro community where the authors help each other out and work together to spread the word about the bizarro label. There's a lot of variety in the genre and no two bizarro writers are alike.

    LaGs - Was the Mellick book you read Satan Burger? If so then you should read something different by him. SB is his most popular book but he wrote it when he was 20, like 15 years ago, and his newer stuff is much better and much less weird for the sake of weird. Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland, Crab Town, and The Egg Man are much better.
     
  18. Chudz
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    Chudz Contributing Member

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    One of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami, is one that I would consider as surrealistic. That's not his only style, however, as he has done in-depth pieces on real-world events, such as the gas attacks on the Tokyo subways conducted by Aum Shinrikyo.

    To be honest, though, when I first read a piece of his, "After Dark," I was almost turned off completely because it left so many things--in my opinion--open to interpretation. However, as I read more of his works, I began to appreciate his writing for exactly that trait. He was the first author that I read that challenged me to think beyond the story presented. Maybe that's why he's one of my favorites. *Shrug*

    Anyway, best wishes.
     
  19. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    YES! In the introduction to the book he does mention that he was only 20 when it was written, and i have to say this played on my mind a lot when i was reading it. Writing books, like any profession i suppose, gets better as you age and get more practice. (I almost sound like i'm speaking from experience here :rolleyes:) I still don't think it's a bad book though, cos' it made me laugh out loud a couple of times, it's just certain aspects of the book that were annoying me
     
  20. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I think Kafka should be given a mention in this thread. A true original thinker.

    I think my writing has a lot of surrealist elements in it, in that it feels real but there are strange moments which you can't explain and you just have to go with it. I've tried to cut alot of this out for my current novel and main project as I think there are times when surrealism doesn't work at all.
     

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