postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words October 4, 2011 - 5:46pm

When my 3rd year British Fiction prof introduced us to B.S. Johnson, it showed me that experimental fiction didn't have to be pretentious or unreadable i.e. intellectual wanking. I really took to metafiction and novels experimenting with form, in terms of the physical layout of the book as much as anything (take that e-readers).

Albert Angelo by BS Johnson - the most noteworthy part of this book are the two physical holes cut into two consecutive pages. Like a physical foreshadowing of sorts. He really experiments with the text layout, so at one point there are two columns, the left is the out-loud dialogue (taking attendance in class) and the right Albert's internal monologue.

House Mother Normal by BS Johnson - I imagine typesetters hated him whenever he showed up with a new manuscript. This one is set in a retirement home. The story is divided into 10 "chapters"  The pages in each chapter are numbered 1-21. Each chapter is named after one of the retirees, with a list of their physical & mental ailments & pathology. The content is the internal monologue for each character (which become less and less coherent with each chapter until you get blank pages with a sprinkling of letters). Any dialogue is written in italics, and occurs on the same line of the same page in each chapter. The House Mother gets the last chapter, which finally explains what the hell is going on.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski - I'm not sure what to make of this one. I've read it once, and I don't know if I can do it again. A haunted house story of sorts, where the pages become a labyrinth of text much as a series of rooms and corridors are discovered in the house itself. Maybe it's wanking, but bloody impressive.

Anyone else???

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break October 4, 2011 - 5:50pm

Blake Butler, especially his most recent release, There Is No Year, although it's pretty much a watered down more artsy version of House of Leaves.

wickedvoodoo's picture
wickedvoodoo from Mansfield, England is reading stuff. October 4, 2011 - 6:09pm

Irvine Welsh sometimes plays around with his type form.

Marabou Stork Nightmares is set mostly in the narrators head and had him move from setting to setting by 'coming up/coming down.' When he does the words step up and down the lines on the page, and occasionally run in parallel.

And the main character in Filth has a tapeworm that likes to interrupt his narration. It eats through the middle of the pages, and gets fatter and fatter as the book moves on.

Not as ambitious as Mark Z. Danielewski, but pretty clever at times. 

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words October 4, 2011 - 7:06pm

The Unfortunates also by BS Johnson is a book in a box. Well, the chapters are seperate, so that you may read them in whichever order you choose. I found the idea far more interesting than the story in this case.

Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar - first time around, read from chapter 1 to 58 (maybe 56, something like that). The second time around, start with chapter 1. At the end of chapter 1, it refers you to the next chapter, and so on at the end of every subsequent chapter so that you hopscotch back and forth and all over the novel, including a number of chapters well beyond the original 58. Again, some of the narrative threads were great, but others weren't my cup of mate.

@Brandon & @wickedvoodoo - thanks for the titles, I will take a looksee. I'd been meaning to read Filth when it came out, but, well the "to be read" pile took a different turn.

XyZy's picture
XyZy from New York City is reading Seveneves and Animal Money October 4, 2011 - 7:51pm

John Barth. His collection Lost in the Funhouse is still one of my favorite reads because it includes Menelaiad , and Anonymiad. He was one of the pioneers of functional meta-fiction (as opposed to simple recursive fiction that the semiotics schools were playing with, though that can be fun for a lark as well) and I find that all of his work is served by his experimentation rather than serving his cleverness, which is important in experimentation. The only downside to his work is if you haven't read the classics, you'll miss about half of his jokes... but only half.

As for House of Leaves, a good bit of that is wanking... but it is earned, because the kernal story is actually very good, and the rest is at least interesting. Only Revolutions was interesting in its concept, and I love how he weaves the two storylines together, but I feel like I didn't pay enough attention in my American History classes to appreciate it more... which is probably true.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 11, 2011 - 2:47pm

I think There is No Year is significantly better than House of Leaves (which I disliked). Ron Loewinsohn's Magnetic Fields is a good book to look into if you liked the two forementioned novels. I liked Jonathan Safran Foer's first two novels, which I classify as mainstream novels that use experimental techniques. Raymond Federman is another experimental writer to look into. He can be fun and does a lot of interesting things with the the layout of the text (years and years before Danielewski ever published a book). And Steve Erickson is one of my favorite writers and despite saying, "I hear the word 'experimental' and reach for my revolver," his books seem experimental to me as far as their narratives, although I believe The Sea Came in At Midnight and and Our Ecstatic Days had some experiments going on in form, particularly one of those books where a sentence broke off from the rest of the narrative and continued below the text on each page until it eventually rejoined the narrative during a later page. And there's some parts of the text that are laid out in particular shapes. I also really like Selah Saterstrom's two novels (or perhaps they're novellas) and she's mildly experimental.

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words October 11, 2011 - 10:13am

@Bradley Sands - thanks so much for the recommendations. I will take a gander into everything recommended in this thread - but as many of you I'm sure, my "to be read" pile of books gets taller and taller despite my considerable time spent reading.



postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words December 1, 2011 - 6:59pm

thanks for all the suggestions.

I've recently finished Irvine Welsh's Filth (and still feel dirty) and Steve Erickson's the Sea Came in at Midnight. I enjoyed them both a great deal, although for completely different reasons.

I am seeking out more of Erickson as a result - easy to read, much more difficult to grasp. there's much going on.