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Table of contents :
1. The Concept of the Radical in Writing
2. The Radical in the 20th Century
3. Radical Experiments 1: Words
4. Radical Experiments 2: The Page, the Book
5. Radical Experiments 3: Narrative, Visuals, Sound
6. Experiments in Writing for Children
7. Fiction and the Future
8. Teaching and Learning the New Creative Writing
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Creative Writing and the Radical

NEW WRITING VIEWPOINTS Series Editor: Graeme Harper, Oakland University, Rochester, USA Associate Editor: Dianne Donnelly, University of South Florida, USA The overall aim of this series is to publish books which will ultimately inform teaching and research, but whose primary focus is on the analysis of creative writing practice and theory. There will also be books which deal directly with aspects of creative writing knowledge, with issues of genre, form and style, with the nature and experience of creativity, and with the learning of creative writing. They will all have in common a concern with excellence in application and in understanding, with creative writing practitioners and their work, and with informed analysis of creative writing as process as well as completed artefact. Full details of all the books in this series and of all our other publications can be found on, or by writing to Multilingual Matters, St Nicholas House, 31–34 High Street, Bristol BS1 2AW, UK.


Creative Writing and the Radical Teaching and Learning the Fiction of the Future

Nigel Krauth

MULTILINGUAL MATTERS Bristol • Buffalo • Toronto

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Names: Krauth, Nigel, author. Title: Creative Writing and the Radical: Teaching and Learning the Fiction of the Future/ Nigel Krauth. Description: Bristol; Buffalo: Multilingual Matters, [2016] | Series: New Writing Viewpoints: 13 | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016011331| ISBN 9781783095926 (Hbk : alk. paper) | ISBN 9781783095933 (Pdf) | ISBN 9781783095940 (Epub) | ISBN 9781783095957 (Kindle) Subjects: LCSH: Creative writing—Study and teaching. | English language—Rhetoric— Study and teaching. | Report writing—Study and teaching. | Authorship—Study and teaching. Classification: LCC PE1404 .K674 2016 | DDC 808/.042--dc23 LC record available at British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue entry for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN-13: 978-1-78309-592-6 (hbk) Multilingual Matters UK: St Nicholas House, 31–34 High Street, Bristol BS1 2AW, UK. USA: UTP, 2250 Military Road, Tonawanda, NY 14150, USA. Canada: UTP, 5201 Dufferin Street, North York, Ontario M3H 5T8, Canada. Website: Twitter: Multi_Ling_Mat Facebook: Blog: Copyright © 2016 Nigel Krauth. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. The policy of Multilingual Matters/Channel View Publications is to use papers that are natural, renewable and recyclable products, made from wood grown in sustainable forests. In the manufacturing process of our books, and to further support our policy, preference is given to printers that have FSC and PEFC Chain of Custody certification. The FSC and/or PEFC logos will appear on those books where full certification has been granted to the printer concerned. Typeset by Nova Techset Private Limited, Bengaluru & Chennai, India. Printed and bound in Great Britain by the CPI Books Group Ltd.


Figures Acknowledgments

vii xi

Introduction Why Trace the Radical? Progenitors Multimodality Creative Writing and the Radical

1 4 6 12 16

The Concept of the Radical in Writing Radical Practice in the 20th Century Radical Fiction in the 18th and 19th Centuries: Early Experiments Radicality and the Senses Collage, Multimodality and Radicality

18 18 22 26 33


The Radical in the 20th Century Sites of Experimentation Cubist Writing: Text as Visual Art Dadaist Writing: The Cut-up Surrealist Writing: Springboards for the Mind American Radicality: Federman, Sukenick, and Others

40 40 46 50 55 62


Radical Experiments 1: Words Experiments with Words

68 68


Radical Experiments 2: The Page, the Book Experiments with the Page Experiments with the Book

87 87 98




Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical


Radical Experiments 3: Narrative, Visuals, Sound Experiments with Narrative Structure Experiments with Visuals and Graphics Experiments with Sound and the Page

110 110 119 129


Experiments in Writing for Children The Value of Play Experiments with Visuals and the Page Experiments with Language, Sound and the Page Current Experiments with the Book for Young People

137 137 143 150 155


Fiction and the Future Fiction and New Technologies The Reader Writes Back: Electronic Writing from the 1990s Onwards Beyond 2000: Mainstream Multimodal Publishing on Paper A Brave New World of Paper Publishing App and Web Literary Works

161 161 164 167 174 182

Teaching and Learning the New Creative Writing New Reading and Writing Teaching New Forms of Writing The Situation for Creative Writing Radical Possibilities for Teaching Creative Writing

185 185 189 192 197

References Index

207 221



Figure I.1 Figure I.2 Figure I.3 Figure I.4

Figure 1.1 Figure 1.2 Figure 1.3 Figure 1.4 Figure 2.1 Figure 2.2 Figure 2.3 Figure 2.4

George Herbert, open page, ‘Easter Wings’, 1633 Simias of Rhodes, ‘The Wings’, c. 300 BC Laurence Sterne, pp. 152 and 153 of Vol. 6 of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 7th edn, printed for J. Dodsley and dated 1768 Left, Guillaume Apollinaire, ‘Poem from 9th February, 1915 (Recognize yourself)’, in Poèmes à Lou (1955); right, photograph of Louise de Coligny-Chatillon whom Apollinaire met in 1914 William Blake, ‘The Garden of Love’, original plate, artwork and poem, 1794 William H. Gass, Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife, 1968 John Heartfield and George Grosz, Leben und Treiben in Universal-City 12 Uhr 5 mittags (Life and Activity in Universal City at 12:05 Midday, 1919–20), 1920 Richard Huelsenbeck, Marcel Janco and Tristan Tzara, ‘L’amiral cherche une maison à louer’ (‘The Admiral Looks for a House to Rent’), 1916 Laurence Sterne, pp. 146 and 147 of Vol. 6 of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 7th edn, printed for J. Dodsley and dated 1768 Lothar Meggendorfer, The Monkey Theater, 1893. This is a still shot. Sword arm and monkey with broom move in the original Guillaume Apollinaire, ‘La Mandoline, l’œillet et le bambou’ (‘Mandolin, Carnation and Bamboo’), 1913–1916 Guillaume Apollinaire, ‘Lettre-Océan’ (‘Ocean-Letter’), 1914


7 8 9

10 31 32 35 36 43 43 47 50


Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

Figure 2.5

Open page from Hans Arp and Tristan Tzara, Cinema Calendrier du Coeur Abstrait, Maisons (Cinema Calendar of the Abstract Heart, Houses), 1920 52 Figure 2.6 Left, Hugo Ball in the Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, 1916, performing his sound poem; right, the poem ‘Karawane’ as published in the Dada Almanach, Berlin, 1920 54 Figure 2.7 From Max Ernst, ‘Quatrième Cahier: Mercredi’ (‘Fourth Book: Wednesday’), Une semaine de bonté ou Les sept éléments capitaux (A Week of Kindness or the Seven Deadly Elements), 1934 58 Figure 2.8 Paul Éluard and Man Ray, Facile (Easy), 1935 59 Figure 2.9 Paul Éluard and Man Ray, Facile (Easy), 1935 60 Figure 2.10 Georges Hugnet, La Septième face du de (The Seventh Face of the Dice), 1936 61 Figure 2.11 Georges Hugnet, La Septième face du de (The Seventh Face of the Dice), 1936 62 Figure 3.1 Graham Rawle, Woman’s World: A Novel, 2005 78 Figure 4.1 William H. Gass, Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife, 1968 89 Figure 4.2 Tom Phillips’ A Humument, 2012. The text reads: ‘He put art before self; /toge/he tried to draw her/ drawing her strange reality’ 92 Figure 4.3 Raymond Federman, Double or Nothing, 1998, originally published in 1972. This is a page in a novel, not in a book of concrete poems (although Federman said it was neither: it was a ‘real fictitious discourse’) 95 Figure 4.4 Raymond Federman, Double or Nothing, 1998, originally published in 1972 96 Figure 4.5 Raymond Federman, Take It Or Leave It, 1976 97 Figure 4.6 Fold-out pp. 78 and 79 of Adam Thirlwell’s Kapow!, 2012 98 Figure 4.7 Left, Marc Saporta, Composition No 1, original Simon and Schuster US edition, 1963; right, Visual Editions version, 2011 99 Figure 4.8 B.S. Johnson with his novel, The Unfortunates, 1969 102 Figure 4.9 Dave Eggers (ed.) McSweeney’s Issue 36 (10 January 2011) – 500-page boxed set open and closed 105 Figure 5.1 Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Vol. XI, Chap. XL, 1761 115 Figure 5.2 John Barth, Lost in the Funhouse, 1968 116 Figure 5.3 Donald Barthelme, Forty Stories, 1987 120


Figure 5.4

Figure 5.5 Figure 5.6 Figure 5.7

Figure 5.8

Figure 5.9 Figure 5.10 Figure 5.11 Figure 5.12 Figure 5.13 Figure 5.14 Figure 6.1 Figure 6.2 Figure 6.3 Figure 6.4 Figure 6.5 Figure 6.6 Figure 6.7 Figure 6.8 Figure 6.9

From Max Ernst, ‘Quatrième Cahier: Mercredi’ (‘Fourth Book: Wednesday’), Une semaine de bonté ou Les sept éléments capitaux (A Week of Kindness or the Seven Deadly Elements), 1934 Derek Pell, Assassination Rhapsody, 1989 Kathy Acker, Blood and Guts in High School, 1984 Map by Hermann Moll from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, 1726. Lilliput is shown in the Indian Ocean near Sumatra and (mainly unmapped) Australia Engraving from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, 1778. This fold-out map allowed the reader to follow Pilgrim’s journey through the fictional landscape as the plot progressed Map from the first edition of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, 1919 Left, Faulkner’s original map for Absalom, Absalom!, 1936; right, a later revision he made for Malcolm Cowley’s The Portable Faulkner, 1946 Krauth story with music notation epigraph, 1978 Prisoners’ song with music notation in restored text version of A Clockwork Orange, 2013 Samuel Beckett, Watt, 1953 Samuel Beckett, Watt, 1953 Four-part Exquisite Corpse drawing by Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro and Max Morise, 1928 ‘Peltopus’ from Sara Ball, Por-gua-can, 1985 ‘Jack piggybacks tropically’, from Carin Berger, All Mixed Up, 2006 From the chapbook Tom Thumb His Life and Death, c. 1665 John Newbery, ‘Hop-Scotch’, from A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, 1744 One of Robert Sayer’s lift-the-flap books, Queen Mab, or, The tricks of Harlequin, 1771 Two tab-pull pages by Lothar Meggendorfer: left, ‘The Tailor’, from Comic Actors, 1890; right, ‘The Pool Player’, from Scenes in the Life of a Masher, 1894 Lift-the-flap spread from Eric Hill, Where’s Spot?, 1980 Wayne Campbell, What a Catastrophe!, illustrated by Allan Stomann, 1986


121 122 123


126 127 128 130 131 132 133 141 143 143 145 146 147 148 149 153


Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

Figure 6.10 Left, from the Scott Foresman Dick and Jane series, 1930s; right, ‘Dr. Seuss’, One fish two fish red fish blue fish, 1960 Figure 6.11 Kristen McLean, ‘Reading the same book in different formats’, 2013 Figure 7.1 W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, 2001 Figure 7.2 Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, 2005 Figure 7.3 Leanne Shapton’s Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry, 2009 Figure 7.4 Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, 2005 Figure 7.5 Jonathan Safran Foer, Tree of Codes, 2010 Figure 7.6 Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad, 2011, p. 216 Figure 7.7 Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad, 2011, p. 247 Figure 7.8 Hodder & Stoughton’s flipback® book publicity shots

154 156 169 170 172 173 175 178 179 182


The basis for this book is the Radical Fictions course I taught for more than a decade at Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia. I am grateful to the university for the semester of study afforded me in 2013 for writing this book. I also acknowledge the friendly assistance of Patrick Wildgust, Curator of the Laurence Sterne Trust at Shandy Hall, Coxwold, Yorkshire and the access he granted me to the trust’s collection of radical fiction works. My short time at marvellous Shandy Hall kick-started my writing. This book traces a trajectory in my life as a writer and as an academic in the English Literature and then Creative Writing fields. As I look back I see how many friendly academics contributed to that trajectory and defined its key turning points: from my lecturers in the English Department at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, who introduced me to the likes of Laurence Sterne and e.e. cummings, through Mike Greicus at the University of Papua New Guinea who lent me the first Robbe-Grillet novel I read, to Jason Nelson at Griffith University who allowed me to supervise his digital poetry PhD and taught me so much in the process. I am particularly grateful to colleagues, friends, mentors and family who inspired me along the way to read further and think more, and who shared with me the benefits of their knowledge and research. These include Inez Baranay, Tess Brady, Narola Changkija, Gary Crew, Keith Gallasch, Graeme Harper, Clive Hart, Kirsten and Alinta Krauth, Robin Laidlaw, Jock McLeod, Frank Moorhouse, Paul Munden, John Potts, Robyn Sheahan-Bright, the late and wonderful Norman Talbot, Graham Tulloch, Ross Watkins, Michael Wilding, and many others. And deepest thanks to Jane with whom I share so much, including academia. Finally I wish to thank the students in my Radical Fictions course who in the last two decades took this journey with me.



Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

Citations An earlier version of Chapter 7 appeared in John Potts (ed.) (2014) The Future of Writing (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan) under the title ‘Multigraph, not monograph: Creative writing and new technologies’ (pp. 58–76). I thank the publishers for permission to use parts of that work in this book. Parts of Chapters 1 and 8 appeared in Graeme Harper (ed.) (2015) Creative Writing and Education (Bristol: Multilingual Matter) under the title ‘The radical future of teaching creative writing’ (pp. 183–195). Image by Hans Arp from Hans Arp and Tristan Tzara (1920) Cinema Calendrier du Coeur Abstrait, Maisons. Used by permission of SCALA © Photo SCALA, Florence. Excerpts from John Barth, Lost in the Funhouse © 1963, 1966, 1968, 1969 by John Barth. Used by permission of Doubleday, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Any third-party use of this material outside this publication is prohibited. Interested parties must apply directly to Penguin Random House LLC for permission. Image of pages from Anthony Burgess (2012) A Clockwork Orange (Portsmouth, NH: William Heinemann). Reproduced by permission of The Random House Group Ltd. Music score from Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange © 1962, 1986, renewed 1990 by Anthony Burgess. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Excerpts from Mark Crick, The Household Tips of the Great Writers © 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011. Used by permission of Granta Publications. Image of Exquisite Corpse © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Successió Miró/ ADAGP, Yves Tanguy/ARS. Licensed by Viscopy, 2016. Images by Max Ernst from ‘Quatrième Cahier: Mercredi’ (‘Fourth Book: Wednesday’) of Max Ernst, Une semaine de bonté ou Les sept éléments capitaux (A Week of Kindness or the Seven Deadly Elements) © Max Ernst/ADAGP. Licensed by Viscopy, 2015. Map of Yoknapatawpha Co. from William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! © 1936 by William Faulkner and renewed 1964 by Estelle Faulkner and Jill Faulkner Summers. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Excerpts from Raymond Federman, Double or Nothing © 1998 by Raymond Federman. Used by permission of the University of Alabama Press.

Acknowledgment s


Excerpt from Raymond Federman, Take It Or Leave It © 1976 by Raymond Federman. Used by permission of the University of Alabama Press. Excerpt and page from Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Hamish Hamilton, 2005; Penguin Books, 2006) © Jonathan Safran Foer, 2005. Used by permission of the publisher. Excerpt from Jonathan Safran Foer, Tree of Codes ©Visual Editions; book design by Sara De Bondt Studio; cover design by Jon Gray. Image used by permission of The Publishing Lab. Flipback images used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton. Artwork from Georges Hugnet, La Septième face du de (The Seventh Face of the Dice) 1936 © Georges Hugnet/ADAGP. Licensed by Viscopy, 2016. Poem, ‘I/am/the/text’ © 2011 by Harry Matthews. Used by permission of Alastair Brotchie and Atlas Press. Image of pages from Derek Pell, Assassination Rhapsody © 1989 by Derek Pell and Autonomedia. Used by permission of the author. Page from Tom Phillips, A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel © 2012 Thames & Hudson/Tom Phillips used by permission of the Tom Phillips Studio. © Tom Phillips/DACS. Licensed by Viscopy, 2016. Pages from Graham Rawle, Woman’s World © 2005 by Graham Rawle. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint. Images by Man Ray from Paul Éluard and Man Ray, Facile © MAN RAY TRUST/ADAGP. Licensed by Viscopy, 2015. Photography by Irène Andréani. Image by Allan Stomann from Wayne Campbell and Allan Stomann, What a Catastrophe! © 1986. Used by permission of Allan Stomann. Image of Adam Thirlwell’s Kapow! book design ©Visual Editions 2012. Photograph by David Sykes. Photography on pages 32, 59, 91, 97, 98, 100, 107, 122, 123 and 124 by Alinta Krauth. Multiple efforts have been made to locate, contact and acknowledge copyright owners. Any errors will be rectified in future editions.


This book examines the radical thinking and experimentation creative writers have undertaken in the last 250 years, but particularly what they have achieved in the 20th and early 21st centuries. While it focuses on literary writing, it is not about literary theorists, literary critics, literary academics or their thinking. It is about writers and their motivations, their striving and frustration, problems they were challenged by and ways they overcame them. It concentrates on prose – on fiction particularly – although much that is radical in the history of writing has been done by poets; playwrights and screenwriters have contributed too. I am committed to fiction here because its history is now notably implicated in the changes occurring to writing in the digital age, for instance in the emergence of the app novel. Poets were quick to embrace the digital sphere in the 1990s, but the shift of fiction to digital platforms takes with it a far greater readership, and a far larger portion of publishing enterprise. My aim in this book is to show that the transformative possibilities of the digital age have not been a sudden surprise to prose writing. Experimental writers were not ambushed by hypertext or hypermedia; in fact, they rehearsed them for more than a century without knowing what the new forms would be called, or what they would really look like. The technological turn that finally catered for their revolutionary ideas was never certain. Even so, poets and novelists – by looking across at other art forms, by attempting to escape the strictures of the printed page, by seeking ways of incorporating more of the senses (visual, aural, tactile) more immediately into reading – posited a new kind of writing whose time has now come. By seeking to encompass the verbal, visual and aural arts, radical writing set itself up for the hypermedia age. It can be observed that in critical writing generally the word ‘radical’ refers to particular types of politics – left-wing or right-wing but mostly the former – and the kinds of writing that come from those viewpoints. In talking about the arts, the word ‘radical’ is almost always used in conjunction with references to the ‘avant-garde’, which is itself a highly contested term, even though 1


Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

its meaning as ‘those who are experimental forerunners’ is reasonably clear. While the term avant-garde continues to be debated (Which techniques does it cover? Which arts practitioners does it apply to?), I have sought to claim the adjective ‘radical’ and take it away from its merely supportive and often redundant role, as in ‘the radical avant-garde’, to give it a real meaning. In this book I use the term radical in a specific way: to refer to the kind of writing that is done when the writer has – explicitly – innovation in mind. For me, the Radical occurs when a writer sets out to defy convention and write in such a way that the accepted processes of writing and reading are called into question. The radical writer has the intention of reaching an audience by means that are different from the norm, that involve more of the physical senses in the reading (a more bodily involvement in the reading), or an intellectual understanding that the work is to be read differently in order to gain a fuller experience at a psychological or emotional level. The radical intention of the writer tends to announce itself quickly: the words are not set out on the page in the conventional fashion; typography is upset by concrete effects; visual images are entwined among or break into the text; the pages of the book don’t work normally; the book has become something else entirely – a box of papers, a panoramic map, a soft cloth, and so on. Whatever the radical intention, the writer is keen to contact the reader by means other than those by which mainstream publishing (in her/his time) has typically communicated with its audience. Several digital media theorists and critics have already visited the territory I step into. The most influential of these are George P. Landow (1992, revised 1997, 2006), Janet H. Murray (1997), Espen J. Aarseth (1997), J. Yellowlees Douglas (2000), Jay David Bolter (2001, revised 2011) and N. Katherine Hayles (2008). Each takes their own view of the migration of print into digital media, and each looks to the literary past for forerunners to writing in the computer age. But none of them, to my mind, really takes on the viewpoint of the writer. Although they address in some detail questions about authorship, it is authorship theorized by Derrida in particular, with Barthes, Foucault and game theory also contributing. Although highly useful for viewing the overall shape of the remediation process and changes to technological production, these perspectives treat texts mainly as disembodied phenomena and as works for readers rather than products deriving from writers’ motivation. Also, they tend to look at history and its advances/ problems in terms of hypertext rather than the more exciting hypermedia, which is, I believe, the form the radical writers of previous centuries were grasping for, even though they could not anticipate its shape or nature. Landow and those following have interrogated particularly the way text works in new media settings as opposed to on the printed page, but while

Introduc t ion


they observe that reading multiply instead of reading linearly is key to developments, they are less interested in reading and writing multimodally. In this book my commitment is especially to the viewpoint of the writer. I examine writing process in the digital age and make a trace back through print literature to see how writers themselves sought to escape the print medium. I believe that the anticipation and striving among experimental writers for a composite medium that allowed text, visuals and audio was so strong, it is a great pity for us now that writers like Laurence Sterne or Guillaume Apollinaire did not have hypermedia to work with. Without knowing how the computer would work or what its outputs would look like, they pioneered changes to writing that the digital age has opened up to all and made mainstream. The awareness, among early 20th-century writers, of future technological change can be gauged from Paul Valéry’s observations. In 1928 he wrote: For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art. (Valéry, 1964: 225) He described technological advances and consequent changes to creative product making in terms we recognize easily almost 100 years later: At first, no doubt, only the reproduction and transmission of works of art will be affected. It will be possible to send anywhere or to re-create anywhere a system of sensations, or more precisely a system of stimuli, provoked by some object or event in any given place. Works of art will acquire a kind of ubiquity. We shall only have to summon them and there they will be, either in their living actuality or restored from the past. They will not merely exist in themselves but will exist wherever someone with a certain apparatus happens to be. A work of art will cease to be anything more than a kind of source or point of origin whose benefits will be available – and quite fully so – wherever we wish. Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign. Just as we are accustomed, if not enslaved, to the various forms of energy that pour into our homes, we shall find it perfectly natural to receive the ultrarapid variations or oscillations that our sense organs gather in and integrate to form all we know. I do not know


Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

whether a philosopher has ever dreamed of a company engaged in the home delivery of Sensory Reality. (Valéry, 1964: 225–226) This essay, ‘The Conquest of Ubiquity’, and others in which Valéry made similar predictions (‘Hypothesis’, 1929; ‘The Idea of Art’, 1935) were published and republished in French and in translation in Europe, England and America in the 1920s and 1930s by journals as well read as The Commonweal and the Yale Review. Walter Benjamin used this essay as the starting point for his influential ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936). Whereas Benjamin’s insights brought into focus the effects on experiencing works of art mass produced by printing press or camera, Valéry’s vision was bolder. The ‘sensory reality’ apparatus he foresaw, which would produce ‘visual or auditory images … at a simple movement of the hand’, suggested a technology well beyond mechanical mass reproduction – in fact, something much more like the digital. Valéry wrote in ‘The Idea of Art’: Already the inventions of photography and cinematography are transforming our notion of the plastic arts. It is by no means impossible that the extremely minute analysis of sensations which certain means of observation or recording (such as the cathode-ray oscillograph) seem to foreshadow, will lead to methods of playing on the senses compared to which even music, even electronic music, will seem mechanically complicated and obsolete in its aims. (Valéry, 1964: 79) Noting that recorded music events could already be reproduced across the globe, Valery said in 1928: We are still far from having controlled visual phenomena to the same degree. Color and relief are still rather resistant. A sunset on the Pacific, a Titian in Madrid cannot yet be enjoyed in our living room with the same force of illusion as a symphony. (Valéry, 1964: 227) But the point is that Valéry was already thinking about such things, and talking about them. His ideas provide a fertile context in which to study the Radical impulse in writers (and artists and musicians) in the 20th century – an impulse which was a precursor to the digital age.

Why Trace the Radical? For writers in the 21st century the ground has shifted – or, to put it less disturbingly – the horizon has broadened. The processes of writing and

Introduc t ion


publishing have changed fundamentally since 1990. Touchpads and screens replaced pens and paper. Apples replaced Olivettis. Cut and paste barely recalls the use of scissors and glue. Writer and Editor are programs as well as people. Authors now contribute significantly to their own publicity and marketing. Self-publishing – once derided (at least in the academy) as vanity – has become respectable…. The list of differences goes on. Websites and books about keeping calm and staying published are available for paper-based writers not coping with change in the digital age (e.g. Masson, 2014). Technology has pressured writers to adapt not only to changes in their environment and working methods, but also to the kinds of outputs they must create for new platforms and consequently the nature of the writing they must do. As more paperless publishing occurs, more writing of different kinds is required. The app novel, potentially a mainstream publishing format, requires more than text-only writing skills and knowledge. Behind these ongoing changes lurks a longer history of writing once considered outlaw but which now has come into its own. Essentially it is the kind of print-based writing that utilized more than just the densely printed page to get its messages across, appealing simultaneously to more visual, auditory or tactile responses than those involved in alphabetic reading alone. This rich but sidelined history is traced back through the work of writers who saw themselves as experimenters, who in the main disqualified themselves from mass popular acclaim and political approval, and who were dubbed ‘the avant-garde’. For writers today faced with the need to understand how to write for new multimodal platforms, much can be gained from engaging with this history. For teachers of English and creative writing the ground has shifted too. Fiction and poetry can no longer be siloized as text-only art forms. In the 20th century academic literary discourse operated as if critics knew how to explain to writers what they (the writers) were doing and what they (the writers) had achieved in their writing. It is not too extreme to say that, in the academic view, writers were the benighted subjects of uncritical inspiration, not capable of analyzing the substance and significance of the work they contributed to the literature. Academic critical analysis claimed to provide the enlightening rule of understanding and governance for the literature. The assumptions behind this academic paternalism paralleled colonialist attitudes prevalent in the first half of the century and earlier. The academy’s English departments saw themselves as centres of interpretative power and distributors of reading knowledge; writers were the third-world plantation workers merely (but actually) producing the primary material. English departments resisted the highly experimental (what we might now call the multimodal) in favour of the traditional because the text and the printing press were Eng Lit’s powerbase, defining its domain among the arts. English


Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

departments recognized ‘experimental’ fiction and poetry only when those experiments remained within the bounds of the textual. Writers who played with structure – e.g. Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner – became the darlings of English courses, while those who played with more than structure – e.g. Sterne, B.S. Johnson, William H. Gass – barely made it onto reading lists. It is important that English departments expand their vision, especially since so many of them now provide a home for creative writing courses. The teaching of creative writing in the future will involve a broader range and different types of writing products. New platforms like the iPad already offer new forms of poetry and novel publication with the potential to increase their production capacities and markets. In this context, teachers will need to teach differently and to be familiar with the history of radical experimentation, because what we have considered for a long time to be ‘radical’ is fast becoming mainstream. The change from paper to digital is undeniable; it continues apace. To understand what is going on in this era of remediation, the tracing of the radical in the past can give us insights – ways of explaining and finding guidance – for crossing to a new kind of teaching.

Progenitors Many writers have contributed to the development of radical ideas in writing. Some incorporated the occasional experimental element into an occasional work; others devoted their entire writing lives to innovation. In English poetry and fiction, George Herbert (1593–1633) and Laurence Sterne (1713–1768) among others (see Higgins, 1987) rehearsed key elements of radical modernist writing. Following Greek, Roman and medieval examples, Herbert in ‘Easter Wings’ (1633) prefigured concrete poetry movements by arranging his poem on the page with text and visuals working together – an early example of a multimodal poem (Figure I.1). Herbert’s poem involved a collage-ing of ideas and processes radical for any era in the English language, although traceable by scholarship back to the Ancient Greek bucolic poets (Figure I.2). The idea that words on the page might also work as pictures on the page was considered a diversion for 17th-century readers. As Higgins points out, ‘pattern poetry’ was criticized by literary elites in the 16th and 17th centuries (Higgins, 1987: 14). But also this kind of poetry addressed poetic technical problems – of having the rhythms, rhymes and line lengths of the poem comply not with conventional literary models, but with a plan that involved thinking about the surface of the page, bringing the fact of the page to the reader’s foreground, and making the poem readable there on the surface as

Introduc t ion


Figure I.1 George Herbert, open page, ‘Easter Wings’, 1633 Source: Ferguson et al. (1996: 331).

well as ‘beyond’ in the conventional manner. Herbert’s work utilized the capacities of the relatively new (150-year-old) printing press to produce poetic effects which ironically challenged the governing processes inherent in printing. Insisting that the type must be unconventionally manipulated, and that new logic be applied to layout, Herbert called on a greater energy and imagination in the printery. Avant-garde movements almost 300 years later would take up these radical ideas with gusto. Laurence Sterne’s famous 1761 drawing of his plotlines – ‘the four lines I moved in through my first, second, third, and fourth volumes’ of Tristram Shandy (Sterne, 1940: 474) – and his inclusion of them in the pages of the novel, pre-date sophisticated literary experiments of recent times (Figure I.3). Here Sterne, like Herbert, utilizes and also challenges the capacities of the printing press. He plays in a radical fashion with text, visuals and exegetical ideas about the practice of novel writing. Pages of Tristram Shandy where text and image are collaged together look like screen captures from simple modern-day hypermedia, yet they are 250 years old. Sterne defied practice in his time by fooling with printing, and his novel was popular in spite of (or because of) its experimentation. But the strategies he pioneered are now seriously applicable. The resurgence of interest in Sterne in the computer age (a graphic novel version of Tristram Shandy in 1996, an experimental film in 2005, an entirely renovated, updated printing of the novel in 2010)


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Figure I.2 Simias of Rhodes, ‘The Wings’, c. 300 BC Source: Simias of Rhodes (2011).

indicates how a work once thought ‘impossible’ in many ways now has relevance for its teasing apart of creative processes (see Rowson, 1996; Sterne, 2010; Winterbottom, 2005). In the 20th century we can take three points – 1914, 1951 and 1995 – to discover an ongoing focus for radical experimentation in writing. In 1918, Guillaume Apollinaire wrote: Typographical artifices worked out with great audacity have the advantage of bringing to life a visual lyricism which was always unknown before our age. These artifices can still go much further and achieve the synthesis of the arts, of music, painting and literature. (Apollinaire, 1971: 228)

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Figure I.3 Laurence Sterne, pp. 152 and 153 of Vol. 6 of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 7th edn, printed for J. Dodsley and dated 1768 Source: Sterne (2000).

While he ignored the long (and admittedly obscure) history of pattern poetry (described by Higgins, passim), Apollinaire referred to works like his own newly forged calligrammes, where typographical design and layout incorporated on the page the spatial elements of painting and photography along with the textual elements of verse and prose (Figure I.4). Within the term ‘visual lyricism’ he brought together multiple senses, art forms and ways of reading/interpreting which had been mainly held apart by the unsophisticated technologies available to artists, musicians and writers, and by art form categorizations imposed by culture. He foresaw that there could be a page (a site of ‘typographical artifices’) where music, painting and literature co-existed. His vision of ‘a future synthesis of the arts’ was uncannily consistent with the possibilities of the computer screen. Speaking of Robert Delaunay in 1914, Apollinaire said: ‘he contrasted the simultaneous with the successive and saw the former as the new element in all the modern arts: the plastic arts, literature, music, and so on’ (Apollinaire, 2008a: 648). Apollinaire described ‘painted poems’ which did not involve


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Figure I.4 Left, Guillaume Apollinaire, ‘Poem from 9th February, 1915 (Recognize yourself)’, in Poèmes à Lou (1955); right, photograph of Louise de Coligny-Chatillon whom Apollinaire met in 1914 Source: Wikimedia Commons. See Apollinaire_-_Calligramme_-_Po%C3%A8me_du_9_f%C3%A9vrier_1915_-_Reconnais-toi.png and

‘dramatic simultanism’ as in theatrical performance by simultaneous voices, but a ‘printed simultanism’ (Apollinaire, 2008a: 648) where the writer ‘at the centre of life … records the ambient lyricism’ (Apollinaire, 2008a: 646) and ‘synchronize[s] the mind and letter’ of the work to give it ‘the gift of ubiquity’ (Apollinaire, 2008a: 647). Writing in Apollinaire’s magazine Les Soirées de Paris in 1914, Gabriel Arbouin defended Apollinaire’s calligrammes by saying they were texts which no longer obeyed ‘grammatical logic’, but rather ‘an ideographic logic’ (Arbouin, 2008: 652). He called this kind of writing, based in a visual order rather than a narrative order, a ‘Revolution: because our intelligence must habituate itself to understand syntheticoideographically rather than analytico-discursively’ (Arbouin, 2008: 653). Jump now to Northrop Frye writing in 1951: Literature seems to be intermediate between music and painting: its words form patterns which approach a musical sequence of sounds at one

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of its boundaries, and form patterns which approach the hieroglyphic or pictorial image at the other. The attempt to get as near to these boundaries as possible form the main body of what is called experimental writing. (Frye, 2006: 128) Frye brought together two perceptions: first, the changeless notion that ‘some arts move in time, like music; others are presented in space, like painting’ (Frye, 2006: 128) and second, the half-century-old idea that experimental writing tried to break down the separation of the spatial and the temporal in art forms. Experimental writing has often been characterized as seeking to escape the static nature of the page and the strictures of chronological/ linear reading practice. Forming a large part of the experimental endeavour of the 20th century, writers strove to animate the text with concrete typographical effects or by breaking apart the glued-together elements of the book itself. Ways to ‘hear’ the text on the page via synaesthetic means with words made to look as they sounded also occupied the attention of experimenters. Frye identified the main thrust of writing experimentation to be the pushing of the boundaries of writing itself, which seemed to have potential well beyond its page-bound, text-imposed dimensions. Jump again to Richard Kostelanetz writing in 1995: Intermedia … is an encompassing term referring to the new art forms which were invented by disjunctively marrying the materials and concepts of one traditional genre with another or others (in contrast to opera where the media consciously complement) or by integrating art itself with something previously considered nonartistic … In literature, out of the melding of language with design came what is called visual poetry or word-imagery, where the enhancing coherence of words is pictorial (rather than syntactical), while sound poetry or textsound art comes from inventively integrating musical values with initially verbal material. Since the possibilities of literary intermedia have scarcely been explored, it is reasonable to suspect that this may be the single greatest esthetic invention for our time – the sole contemporary peer of cubism and collage. (Kostelanetz, 1995: 93, 95) Reviewing experimental practice of the 20th century in the context where the computer screen was already widespread and hypertext literature had begun to be recognized, Kostelanetz tied the multimodal ‘possibilities of literary intermedia’ back to ‘cubism and collage’, where the pioneering experiments of Apollinaire, Delaunay and others took place. The 20th century had


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come full circle. The quest to broaden writing’s domain – in other words, to bring textual, visual and auditory art forms together – was on the verge of realization.

Multimodality Flight Paths, a collaborative web novel by Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph, is an example of multimodal fiction (Pullinger & Joseph, 2012). As an impressive but relatively simple example of digital literature, it shows the potential of the hypermedia novel form. I find as I read this work, with its strong integration of text, images and soundtrack, that I begin to interpret the visuals as text – to accept that the images are replacing paragraphs of setting and description, so I process them in that way. Similarly, I know the music soundtrack is about atmosphere and emotion, and I interpret it as replacing a textual commentary on the characters’ situations and feelings. I change, expand and re-interpret these different modes or channels of meaning, into a hybrid narrative ‘reading’. I’m not watching film or listening to music; I’m reading the combination of text, image and sound as text. The use of several modes at once – several sites or channels of meaning simultaneously – enriches the reading experience, but also one needs to know how to read in this way. Our current monomodal literacy (that employed in the reading of traditional text novels, for example) does not cope well with multimodal inputs: we get confused, we feel overloaded, we think we can’t focus on so many strands at once. We complain that the novel cannot be multimodal – that it’s just too hard to read. Of course, the actual structure of the paper book – held in linear order by the spine – and our devotion to it, is part of the problem here. But we read films successfully, and they involve at least two sites or channels of meaning – the visual and the auditory. And television advertisements, like computer screens, encourage us to read images and text together, and even add a soundtrack to help (not hinder) us in doing it. To learn about multimodal reading we can turn to Gunther Kress and others such as Gregory L. Ulmer (2002) and Jan Rune Holmevik (2012) (the latter call their version of hypermedia literacy electracy). In Kress’s analysis of multimodality, the way we read has changed due to our exposure to screen-driven culture. We now interact with diverse incoming channels to produce ‘a rich orchestration of meaning’ (Kress, 2011: 05.05). Not only is the visual more pervasive in communication, but also we are much more accepting of the idea that visual and written (or spoken) texts will operate in unison. Perhaps it started with our recognition that – at the

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simplest level – gestures and facial expressions accompany speech as part of the message. But with the proliferation of screens to be read, especially TV advertisements and websites, we are now required to master multimodal reading in order to know about our world. Kress talks about finding meaning ‘where it is’ (Kress, 2011: 05.18). In other words, we read and understand by synthesizing the variety of input modes that come in to us: by selecting, arranging and interpreting what we find most salient amongst the variety of incoming channels we form our reading, our created ‘text’. In the book Multimodality, Kress begins his argument with a simple comparison between street signs (Kress, 2010: 1–4). The first sign, prominently attached to a wall at a set of London traffic lights, gives directions for drivers to get from there to a supermarket, directions which are complex because of access via one-way streets and an obscure entry point to the car park. He explains that the information transmitted in the sign – which uses text, image and colour to clarify its message – is nuanced to operate multimodally because the sign would not work as text alone, or as image alone. Text and image together create the whole communication successfully. But Kress shows another figure – an official sign explaining temporary parking arrangements during the European soccer championships in Salzburg in 2008. It is a printed poster attached to a blackboard-style A-frame, set on the footpath beside a busy road. This sign is typical of publications by official cultures which valorize the written text: ‘Bureaucracy assumes that as long as something has been announced in writing it has been communicated and the rest will look after itself …’ (Kress, 2010: 2). The power of laws and tradition allows the Salzburg Traffic Office to rely on a non-sign, a singlemode communication. Kress’s concern here is to demonstrate how limited the text-only format really is. In Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design, Kress and Theo van Leeuwen describe the process by which multimodal texts are read (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006: 175ff.). They start with the compositional principles used in visual texts – placement, salience and framing – which produce (by meaningful contrast, emphasis, tonal value, etc.) the ‘reading paths’ within a visual work: These three principles of composition apply not just to single pictures … they apply also to composite visuals, visuals which combine text and image and, perhaps, other graphic elements, be it on a page or on a television or computer screen. In the analysis of composite or multimodal texts (and any text whose meanings are realized through more than one semiotic code is multimodal), the question arises whether the products of the


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various modes should be analysed separately or in an integrated way; whether the meanings of the whole should be treated as the sum of the meanings of the parts, or whether the parts should be looked upon as interacting with and affecting one another. (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006: 177) Kress and van Leeuwen pursue the latter path, defining the image + text relationship in a multimodal text not as a picture illustrating the verbal text, ‘thereby treating the verbal text as prior and more important’, nor as separate visual and verbal texts with entirely discrete elements: We seek to be able to look at the whole page as an integrated text. Our insistence on drawing comparisons between language and visual communication stems from this objective. We seek to break down the disciplinary boundaries between the study of language and the study of images, and we seek, as much as possible, to use compatible language, and compatible terminology to speak about both, for in actual communication the two, and indeed many others, come together to form integrated texts. (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006: 177) The logic of integration in a multimodal text lies in its use of overarching codes: these being the mode of spatial composition, and the mode of temporal composition. The former ‘operates in texts in which all elements are spatially co-present – for example, paintings, streetscapes, magazine pages’ and, one should add, the pages of fiction and poetry. The latter ‘operates in texts which unfold over time – for example, speech, music, dance …’. Some types of multimodal text utilize both, for example film and television, although the mode of temporal composition ‘will usually be the dominant integrative principle in these cases’ (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006: 177). Walter J. Ong has pointed out that in the 16th century, in the early days of printing, the printed page was read with its multimodal elements integrated differently: All text involves sight and sound. But whereas we feel reading as a visual activity cueing in sounds for us, the early age of print still felt it as primarily a listening process, simply set in motion by sight. If you felt yourself as reader to be listening to words, what difference did it make if the visible text went its own visually aesthetic way? It will be recalled that pre-print manuscripts commonly ran words together or kept spaces between them minimal. (Ong, 2012: 119)

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Visual elements (e.g. images) residual from illuminated manuscripts were also present in the early printed text. Ultimately, however, print changed the way we viewed the page: Print situates words in space more relentlessly than writing [by hand] ever did. Writing moves words from the sound world to a world of visual space, but print locks words into position in this space. Control of position is everything in print. (Ong, 2012: 119) The visual material available on the printed page eventually declined to the ‘densely printed page’ in which ‘reading is linear and textual integration achieved by linguistic means (conjunctions, cohesive ties, etc.). In books of this kind it seems that the page has ceased to be a significant textual unit’ (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006: 178). But the 20th century saw a resurgence of the visual possibilities of the printed page in advertising, the mass media, children’s books, comics, technical journals, etc. and especially under the influence of TV and computer screens. On these pages: verbal text becomes just one of the elements integrated by information value, salience and framing, and reading is not necessarily linear, wholly or in part, but may go from centre to margin, or in circular fashion, or vertically, etc. … In the case of magazine pages and the pages of modern computer screens, each successive page may have a different reading path. (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006: 178–179) The history of multimodality significantly involves the page as contested cultural space: It should be noted, of course, that the layout of the densely printed page is still visual, still carries an overall cultural significance, as an image of progress … [Until the late 19th century] [l]ayout was not encouraged here, because it undermined the power of the densely printed page as, literally, the realization of the most literary and literate semiotic mode. The genres of the densely printed page, then, manifest the cultural capital (‘high’ cultural forms) controlled by the intellectual and artistic wing of the middle class. … If we are to understand the way in which vital text-producing institutions like the media, education and children’s literature make sense of the world and participate in the development of new forms of social stratification, a theory of language is no longer sufficient and must be complemented by theories which can make the principles of the new visual literacy explicit, and describe, for instance, the


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role of layout in the process of social semiosis that takes place on the pages of the texts produced by these institutions. (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006: 178–179) In this book I use Kress and van Leeuwen’s ideas not only to examine what is happening to creative writing in the 21st century, but also to tease apart the precursor experiments undertaken by writers in groups such as the Cubists, Dadaists, Surrealists and Oulipo in the 20th century. By applying the concepts of multimodality, I seek a unifying thread through the motivations of experimental writers who sought to refashion language, the page and the book to make literature work more effectively at representing human experience.

Creative Writing and the Radical Creative Writing and the Radical presents a history of radical change in creative writing processes and seeks to initiate new ideas about the teaching and learning of creative writing in the current climate, where the book is going digital fast and readership is migrating en masse from paper to electronic page. Creative Writing and the Radical assesses avant-garde movements of the past – the precursors to hypertext and hypermedia – showing how experimental writers, well before the digital age, explored the possibilities of textual forms freed from the strictures of the paper page and the codex form. As a knowledge resource, this book suggests that the history of radical experimentation forms a context for learning and teaching the kind of creative writing needed for the multimodal future of literature. In Chapter 1 (‘The Concept of the Radical in Writing’), the term radical is discussed with particular reference to its use in this book to identify a set of practices that have been considered ‘on the fringes’ of literary writing in the past, but which have now entered the mainstream of literary print and electronic publishing. The focus is radical writing practice in the 20th century, but earlier experiments in the 18th and 19th centuries are also considered. Attempts by writers to involve a full range of bodily senses, along with the key concept of collage, are examined as early investigations of the possibilities of multimodality. Chapter 2 (‘The Radical in the 20th Century’) identifies sites of experimentation and examines prominent experimental movements: Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism and the American Radicals of the later 20th century. Writers in these groups sought to refract, rearrange and recombine the

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written text utilizing concepts and practices from other areas of the arts. The visual arts were most influential, but music and performance also played a part in radicalizing writing and introducing writers to new modes of presentation and publishing. The next three chapters provide a more detailed account of radical experimentation in specific aspects of writing in the 20th century and the influence these had on early 21st-century publishing. Each chapter considers a broad range of writers from Europe, the UK and America and focuses on publications which pioneered ground-breaking methods. Chapter 3 deals with language experimentation, using the Oulipo group’s employment of constraining and combinatory devices as starting point. Chapter 4 outlines innovative uses of the space of the page and a reworking of the possibilities of the book as codex. This chapter also considers different approaches to authorship from the writer’s point of view, especially collaborative writing experiments. Chapter 5 covers attempts by writers to escape from predictable narrative structures and to introduce elements from the visual and aural arts. While radical experimentation occupied the fringes of mainstream adult literature in the 20th century, this was not so for children’s literature. Chapter 6 (‘Experiments in Writing for Children’) begins with an account of the value of play in children’s learning and continues with an examination of experiments which combined text with visuals and sound. It also looks at current experiments with the book for young people. The final two chapters speculate upon the future of publishing and writing, and make predictions based on strong trends, both digital and on paper, in the last 20 years. Chapter 7 (‘Fiction and the Future’) traces the impact of new technologies on fiction, including new app and web literary works, alongside the influence of hypermedia on mainstream paper publishing. Chapter 8 (‘Teaching and Learning the New Creative Writing’) posits the significant shifts creative writing teachers and their departments will likely make to prepare their students for the brave new world of 21st-century publishing.

1 The Concept of the Radical in Writing

Radical Practice in the 20th Century The word radical has a radical history. Rooted in the Latin word radix, meaning ‘root’, in medieval English it was applied to plants and, by implication, to the ‘root’ qualities of a person or thing – the fundamentals, the essence. When attached to actions in the 18th century, it came to mean thorough: thus a radical reform meant a change which gets to the root of a problem. While the sciences continued to use the word in its medieval sense (even today a radical number is the root number as in a square root, and a radical in chemistry is the fundamental element taking part in a reaction, e.g. an atom), politics in the 19th century changed its meaning to the very opposite of its medieval meaning. Radical change stood for extreme and revolutionary change, and radical was applied to progressive and unorthodox ideas which departed from traditional roots. This ironic history where a word comes to mean its opposite is useful for the purpose of talking about writing because writing itself has come through fundamental transformations. In medieval times, the power of writing was significantly controlled by hierarchies of religion and governance – it was the tool and weapon of the status quo. (On the other hand, the oral was the medium of the masses.) With mass literacy and mass print production, writing’s power dispersed: it moved into the multiple hands of the governed where it worked as retort, not as edict. The radical in writing developed as an escape from notions of one-ness – of tradition, convention, formula, the predicted way of doing – to embrace new possibilities. The logic of the medieval conception of radix, the root, was focused on the idea of a tap root, a single generative source for a plant; this corresponded 18

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with notions of authority and hierarchy at the time. Following Deleuze and Guattari who put rhizomic root systems on the agendas of cultural and literary studies, today a point of origin and growth is more likely identified as an interconnected array, as a multiplicity or matrix, rather than as a singular source. Our current conception of roots, as in the rhizomic patterning of grass roots, sees them as lines of growth outwards into new places and territories still linked to origins. We see them as the investigators, the adventurers, the researchers, those that take nourishing new ground. So, the word radical is still about roots even 600 years after it was first used, but these are different roots. They are exploratory; they are not rooted to the one spot. The word radical has been applied to the arts and design for almost a century (the OED notes the use of radical in describing the design of a car in 1921), but radical has not been well-defined in this context. It describes works which, in artistic terms, stand apart from the mainstream, use structures that are unconventional and have agendas that are rebellious. It applies to artworks which in political terms are left-leaning and in moral terms seem outrageous because they break rules. At the basis of any use of the term radical in the arts, there is a sense that tradition has been violated, beliefs have been challenged and the comfortable has been upset. The term works as a sort of bogeyman – an indistinctly outlined threat to our supposedly solid understanding of what the arts (and our lives) should be. It is a term that indicates outcasts. It names the sin bin occupants of the arts game. My concept of the Radical relates to process: I define it as a constellation of particular strategies that produce ground-breaking artistic outcomes. It subtends from political and cultural activism and changing aesthetic and social enthusiasms, and in the arts it expresses itself in processes that reflect new understandings and ambitions, especially those of individuals caught up in bigger social, moral and political change. Perhaps surprisingly, the nature of these radical processes has remained somewhat constant, suggesting that there are conventions associated with the unconventional – that the modes for rebellion have remained somewhat always the same! Radical practice has been subsumed under other names, especially the avant-garde. The usefulness of that term – avant-garde – is intersected by the birth, uncertain life, and death of several movements in the 20th century – Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Oulipo-ism, Fluxism, and more – all doing radical things and having different radical agendas across artforms. Just what these movements achieved, and how they all fit under the umbrella term avant-garde, has been a contentious topic (see, for example, Brill, 2010; Bürger, 1984; Cottington, 2013; Foster, 1996; Kostelanetz, 1982; Krauss, 1986; Murphy, 1999; Poggioli, 1962; Sullivan, 2012). Especially sensitive for debate is the fact that a key feature of these movements involved


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practitioners bringing separate artforms and practices together – which has never fitted with the academic or critical departmentalization of Writing, Visual Arts, Music and Performance. Very few university departments, academic or popular journals, publishers, newspaper review pages or sections of shelves in bookshops actually devote themselves to covering all of these arts areas at once – or even combinations of them – as opposed to categorizing and dealing with them separately. Even websites in the hypermedia age persist mainly with focus on segregated artforms. The culture itself, driven by economic and academic factors, has keenly outlawed practitioners’ desires to bring artform practices together. In spite of the regular use of the term radical to describe a wide variety of movements, practitioners and practices since the early 20th century, no single concept for the Radical in the arts has emerged. In this book I use the term Radical to describe a very particular aspect of the concept of the avant-garde and the movements and practices grouped under it. For me, the Radical is the view of the project of revolution in the creative arts since the early 20th century as seen from the inside. In other words, the Radical is the view that the practitioners themselves took. It involves what they wanted to do, the reasons why they did it and the strategies they pursued. It has been a surprisingly consistent set of aspirations for over a century, yet it has been systemically suppressed from the outside and sometimes erased. These ambitions have had nothing to do necessarily with what critics thought or reported was happening, or how academics interpreted practitioner activities. While culture is shaped significantly by what arts practitioners produce, a major part of that shaping is mediated by ‘the interpreters’ of product. The point of view and interests of the reader/audience/purchaser have driven critical debate, while practitioner processes themselves have been regularly ignored or disparaged. In this book I focus strongly on the viewpoint of writers themselves, on ways in which they spoke about and theorized their own practices (also often ignored or disputed or disparaged by reviewers, the public and academic critical theory) and ways in which their experiments were almost prescient about what would transpire in the 21st century. If, following Valéry, I am so bold as to claim that the Radical in creative writing was a 20th-century project seemingly aimed at precisely what we have now – the marvellous benefits of hypermedia – I do so as an extension of the perception Walter Benjamin made: The history of every art form shows critical epochs in which a certain art form aspires to effects which could be fully obtained only with a changed technical standard, that is to say, a new art form. (Benjamin, 1968: 237)

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As an example, Benjamin evoked the ‘extravagances and crudities’ of Dada and said of that movement: ‘It is only now [i.e. 1936] that its impulse becomes discernible: Dadaism attempted to create by pictorial – and literary – means the effects which the public today seeks in the film’. Then he added (and this I challenge) that Dada ‘was not conscious of such intentions as here described’ (Benjamin, 1968: 237). I cannot see why Dadaists should not have been conscious of significant aspects of what they were doing. Cinema existed in burgeoning form during the Dada period (1916–1924) and D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916), for example, appeared right at the start of Dada and was highly influential. Intolerance is considered a masterpiece not least for its ‘shocking’ collaged/intercut editing together of four disparate narrative storylines. The ‘cut-up’ was, of course, one of Dada’s favourite methods. As a critic, Benjamin is obliged to insist that Dadaists could not see into the future, but his history-based theorist’s view does not get inside the motivations and perceptions of the artists and writers who looked at the world around them and sensed possibilities and trends. In my view, in this instance and in many others, the Radical was a space for writers/artists to test out what they perceived or hoped was inevitable from their observations of the world, and a key theme was the entry of multimodality into the reading process. While the Radical established itself strongly in the early 20th century with the emergence of Dada and Surrealism, its roots went deeper into the past. In fiction writing, for example, Laurence Sterne produced inspiringly radical work in the mid-18th century, his experimental attitude based in the complex storytelling of Cervantes and Rabelais. Before Sterne, Aphra Behn, George Herbert, Geoffrey Chaucer and others used structural and typographical processes still seen as radical today. If one needs a short cut to understanding the nature of the Radical in literature, one might think first about concepts related to the singular, the linear, the beginning-middle-and-end structure, and then think how a writer can replace them with multiplicity, collage or a rhizome of fragments. This idea applies to the mapping of the practitioner’s role in the culture or community as much as to the structure of the work of art s/he produces. Breaking free of the linear and the monomodal is the central issue of the Radical – and from it other radical considerations subtend. My use of the term Radical still draws on many of the values encapsulated in the past in the terms radical literature and radical writing. These terms have been used to refer not to experimental fiction or poetry but to writing that stemmed from left-wing ideology associated with politics and revolution in the 20th century. It must be acknowledged that the idea of revolution was always in the minds of Radical fiction writers. In the view of the society


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they wrote into, their daringly disruptive interference with the status quo of Literature was threatening. Fiction where text was strewn across the pages, or the pages could be strewn across the room, was discomforting. Explosive attacks on the certainties of the linear were (and still are in some quarters) a bibliophilic treason, a literary terrorism. Marginalized writers have regularly committed to changing the status quo of capital ‘L’ Literature to bring about a revolution in reading and publishing. But in the 20th century the Radical pursuit seemed to chase a revolution that was promised over and over, but never happened. For example, William H. Gass’s apparently ground-breaking text + photography novel of 1968, Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife, used radical concepts similar to André Breton’s text + photography novel of 1928, Nadja, which itself followed Georges Rodenbach’s text + photography novel Bruges-la-Morte of 1892 – an ‘experiment’ ongoing for 75 years. Gass also used text + image layout techniques remarkably similar to Paul Éluard and Man Ray’s 1935 photography + poetry book, Facile. Raymond Federman’s concrete prose novel Double or Nothing (1972) was admired for spreading text across the page in a manner similar to that pioneered by Guillaume Apollinaire in his Calligrammes (1918) some 60 years earlier. The radical processes the Beats pursued after WWII – for example William Burroughs’ cut-up techniques in Naked Lunch (1959) – were the same radical processes the Dadaists introduced after WWI with Tristan Tzara’s instructions for how to write a Dadaist poem. And Italo Calvino was still firing the same fusillade at conventional Literature in 1979, 20 years after Burroughs, with the collaged novel If on A Winter’s Night A Traveller. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the shape and promise of the next regime came into view. When technology provided writers with hypertext, it was realized how many radical experiments of the 20th century had been precursors to the computer age. Twenty years further on, with the advent of hypermedia, the revolution in writing was recognizably actually occurring.

Radical Fiction in the 18th and 19th Centuries: Early Experiments The debate about which was the first novel written in English? focuses on a dozen contenders, including Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur in the 15th century, Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia in the 16th century, and in the 17th century, Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World, John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. The debate continues today because critics have different criteria for defining the novel. These criteria are, of course, imposed with hindsight gained from forms the

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novel took in later centuries. From today’s writerly (as opposed to readerly/ critical) viewpoint, however, we understand that the earliest novelists were investigating a prose form about which they knew very little. They were writing blind. Their daring experimental forays into long prose fiction were driven by Radical motivations. They entered new literary territory to try out new voices and structures because they were intrigued by the possibilities of this new form and dissatisfied with the dominant modes of fashionable and conventional writing around them. In other words, the earliest novelists were impelled by thinking very similar to that of experimental writers in modern and postmodern times. The earliest novelists did not know whether or not the novel was going to work as a form, nor what forms it would ultimately take. Like 20thcentury writers seeking to escape the restriction and stasis of the page, the earliest novelists sought escape from the dominance of theatre and epic poetry. They wanted to create whole worlds on the page rather than on the stage, and they wanted to use the language people spoke, the honesty of prose not the artifice of verse. But their revolutionary writerly ideas faced significant readerly opposition: in particular there was ‘the natural antipathy of the natural man to listen to any continuous story except in verse’ (Ker, 2010). The dismal multitude of versified encyclopedias, the rhyming textbooks of science, history and morality, are there to witness of the reluctance with which prose was accepted to do the ordinary prose drudgery. (Ker, 2010) It is hard for us to imagine the 18th-century world where so much was written in verse and the novel was indeed (as its name confirmed) something so new. In England, no developed tradition of novel making existed, and while overseas models were exciting (e.g. the work of Spaniard Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century and Frenchman François Rabelais in the 16th century) there were few examples to work with. (For a survey of imaginative prose written before the 18th century, see Steven Moore’s (2010, 2013) The Novel: An Alternative History.) The idea of creative prose simply wasn’t part of the culture; even the short story was mysterious. Great fiction was transmitted in verse or drama. Full stop. While the established major forms for literary writing in the 18th century were the epic poem (e.g. Milton’s Paradise Lost) and the verse drama (e.g. Shakespeare), prose was the expected medium for religious teaching, education, official correspondence, history, philosophy, travel accounts and low-class popular storytelling. The novel as a serious sustained literary work was a radical departure from what fiction comprised. Those who wrote the first novels in English were radical ipso facto.


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Early English novelists were aware that they were experimenters. Jonathan Swift wrote in the Conclusion to his allegory, A Tale of a Tub (1704): ‘I am now trying an experiment very frequent among modern authors, which is to write upon nothing’ (Swift, 2013). Swift uses the term ‘experiment’ satirically, to point out that his contemporaries were not, in fact, undertaking useful experimentation when they rambled on, unable to end their works succinctly, succumbing to fashionable flattery of the reader in bidding long literary adieus. This exegetical comment by Swift, coupled with his playful manipulation of form which meant that ‘The Conclusion’ to A Tale of a Tub does not actually conclude the work, shows how matters of structure in the new fiction form were being tested. Another experimenter, Aphra Behn, in Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave (1688) aimed ‘to blend three popular forms of Restoration literature: the New World travel story, the courtly romance, and the heroic tragedy’ (Gallagher, 2000: 13). But Behn did not attempt her blend by interweaving or overlaying the features of her three sources; she produced instead a structure analogous to a triptych in painting: the travel story came first then metamorphosed into the romance which then transformed into the tragedy. This morphing, progressive, threedistinct-genre structure is daring and innovative even by today’s standards. Behn also contributed to one of the key experiments in early novels: the use of the epistolary form. Early novelists considered the advantages of tapping into the communication methods and technology of the time (as their successors have done, e.g. in novels based on email exchanges). Personal communication in the 17th and 18th centuries was undertaken via letters carried by servants and paid couriers. The experiment of the novel as a series of letters provided a way of structuring a long narrative which allowed plot and character development and used real-seeming fictional voices (albeit written ones) in real-seeming fictional documents. Aphra Behn’s Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister (1684–1687) and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740) are examples of how writers adapted the writing going on in society into writing for fictional purposes. Behn undertook sophisticated experiments with narrative viewpoint change and the complex structural and storytelling possibilities this afforded. The possibility of the author’s voice disappearing altogether was a novelty which allowed the reader to construct the storyline. To complicate matters, Behn played with her letter documents, having some faked, some going to wrong addresses, some being written but not sent, and so on, just as happened in real life. The full title of Richardson’s novel was: Pamela: or Virtue Rewarded. In a Series of Familiar Letters from a Beautiful Young Damsel, To her Parents. Richardson was keen to have the experiment in the epistolary novel get close to how real people lived and loved. This wasn’t English life

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interpreted through the lives of mythological gods or Christian saints – the classic fare the English reader was used to – it was life as intimately lived. Another key experimental path taken by early English novelists was to tap into the concept of a retold history. Just as an exchange of letters invited a powerful engagement with human emotional activity, so too a history of a character undertaken by an apparently informed, intimate ‘historian’ provided a way to represent facts about life in fiction. In Volume I, Book II, Chapter I of his novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749), Henry Fielding reiterates that what he is writing is a history, but (in one of the many exegetical passages addressed to the reader) says it is a very new kind of history: I am, in reality, the founder of a new province of writing, so I am at liberty to make what laws I please therein. (Fielding, 1749: 83–84) The ‘new province’ was in fact to not treat the novel as a history where time rules, but to use the form to pick and choose among time settings, to be discontinuous. When any extraordinary scene presents itself (as we trust will often be the case), we shall spare no pains nor paper to open it at large to our reader; but if whole years should pass without producing anything worthy his notice, we shall not be afraid of a chasm in our history; but shall hasten on to matters of consequence, and leave such periods of time totally unobserved. (Fielding, 1749: 82) The excitement of pioneering a new form and finding strategies for literary ways forward was as attractive to 18th-century experimenters as it was to radical writers 200 years later. To write while feeling ‘at liberty to make what laws I please’ was always part of the Radical impulse, but freeing oneself from constraints also disqualified one, very often, from the commercial comforts of conventional writing and from critical acclaim. The writer who sought to get closer to emotional and experiential truths often, ironically, distanced herself from the culture. The above passages show Swift and Fielding talking exegetically about their work – explaining what they sought to achieve and describing their strategies – as if writer and reader are seen as co-workers (or co-conspirators) in the project of forging a new form. Eighteenth-century writers spoke so naturally to their readers, it is puzzling to understand why this correspondence fell out of favour, to the extent that a novel which acknowledged its diegetic frame by having the writer address the reader was considered in the 20th-century to be abnormal. Clearly readers did not like to be told they

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were implicated in the Radical project; they wanted the product alone, they did not want to know how it was made.

Radicality and the Senses In the early 19th century the Marquis de Sade celebrated the body in its most daunting amoral potential. While the century progressed, the Romantics prioritized the senses as conduits for appreciation of the world’s natural splendour. The new focus on liberated bodily senses that inspired the Romantic intellectual revolution triggered a strong reaction from conservative Victorianism. Channelling Gertrude Stein and the outlook of the very early 1900s, Donald Sutherland construed: … It is true that we are more comfortable in the composition of 19th century life and literature, in which an actual or a mentioned cup of tea was part of an hour which was part of a day which was part of a week, month, season, or year, which was part of say the annals of Britain, which were part of the general onward evolution of something that was part of a cosmic order. A sentence was part of a paragraph which was part of a chapter which was part of a book which was part of a shelf of books which was part of England or America or France and so on. Something belonged to everything automatically. But nothing now is really convincingly a part of anything else; anything stands by itself if at all and its connections are chance encounters. Q: If it is true, it sounds scary. Do you mean to make it sound exhilarating? A: Officially of course it is scary. But it is a godsend to an artist. It leaves everything open, and so many realities can still be made. Not dreamed, if you please, but made. (Sutherland, 1951: 193–194) Stein wrote her 1914 novel Tender Buttons using poetic, non-sequitur prose which seems now either cut-up or automatic but mainly it suggests the prismatic feel of writing in a cubist style. Here is her description of eggs: Kind height, kind in the right stomach with a little sudden mill. Cunning shawl, cunning shawl to be steady. In white in white handkerchiefs with little dots in a white belt all shadows are singular they are singular and procured and relieved.

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No that is not the cow’s shame and a precocious sound, it is a bite. Cut up alone the paved way which is harm. Harm is old boat and a likely dash. (Stein, 2003: 277) Stein described Tender Buttons as her ‘first conscious struggle with the problem of correlating sight, sound and sense’ (Stein, 2003: xii). This statement places Stein’s work significantly at the beginning of multimodal writing experimentation. Her key desire was to represent in language the individual’s experience as lived – the multifaceted sensual influx recorded by multitudinous bodily impulses (she had studied psychology under William James). She investigated narrative as a ‘continuous present’, a stream of consciousness aware of the complexity of things going on around and inside her, and she applied compositional structures to writing which were not based in traditional forms but in psychological structures of perception which applied to the individual’s interpretation of living. The only thing that is different from one time to another is what is seen and what is seen depends upon how everybody is doing everything. This makes the thing we are looking at very different and this makes what those who describe it make of it, it makes a composition, it confuses, it shows, it is, it looks, it likes it as it is, and this makes what is seen as it is seen. Nothing changes from generation to generation except the thing seen and that makes a composition. (Stein, 2014) Experiencing life would be confusing except that we learn how to interpret the sensual data inflow. The most appropriate structure for the creative work, according to Stein, was based in how the individual of any time is conditioned to ‘read’ his or her sensual data. Each period of living differs from any other period of living not in the way life is but in the way life is conducted and that authentically speaking is composition. … Any one creating the composition in the arts … [is] conducting life and that makes their composition what it is, it makes their work compose as it does. (Stein, 2014) According to Diana Souhami: [Stein] wrote with Paul Cezanne’s Portrait of Madame Cezanne (1877) on the studio wall in front of her. She thought the painting revolutionary and said that it inspired her; that Cezanne built up this picture


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with repetitive brushstrokes and that she built up her characters with repetitive sentences. There was no center to Cezanne’s picture to give it an organizing principle; the composition was the picture. ‘Cezanne gave me a new feeling about composition. I was obsessed by this idea of composition. … It was not solely the realism of characters but the realism of the composition which was the important thing.’ (Stein, 2003: x) Stein was aware that painting and writing were on the same experimental path, but radical experimentation which broke free of restrictive literary structures was not only about art and arts practice, it also reflected the need progressive thinkers felt about the untightening of moral strictures and a greater sensual involvement in the world. Radical writerly techniques in the early 20th century developed in the context of a larger moral revolution. Cubists and Surrealists, such as Apollinaire with his several erotic novels including Les Onze Mille Verges (The Eleven Thousand Rods) (1907), Louis Aragon with Le Con d’Irene (Irene’s Cunt or Irene) (1928) and Georges Bataille with Histoire de l’oeil (Story of the Eye) (1928), did not so much challenge accepted approaches to literary structure, but did upset the moral applecart. Inspired by the outrageous and prescient Marquis de Sade, Apollinaire, Aragon and Bataille defied their cultural context and presented fractured, offensive, immoral versions of their contemporary world that today, 100 years later, seem far more normal and certainly less censorable. A case can clearly be made for the relationship between Apollinaire’s focus on the senses in his ground-breaking concrete poetry and the sensual investigations in his erotic novels alongside the general sensuality – or senses focus – of the Cubists’ and Surrealists’ interests. The association between radical structuring and radical morality can be traced from de Sade, who experimented with voice, form and the exegetical, e.g. in Philosophy in the Boudoir (1795), through the Surrealists to writers like Harry Mathews, whose Singular Pleasures (1988) was a delightfully illustrated discontinuous collection of flash fictions, each about a character masturbating. While so-called ‘radical’ writing today is typically associated with radical politics (e.g. Karl Marx) and radical morals (e.g. D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Kathy Acker), it is a term which has been used simply to describe the kind of writing ‘that will get the writer into trouble’ as a result of going against the conventions of the time. The romantic sensual outpouring typical of the artistic rebellions of the 19th and 20th centuries particularly involved the body and its sensory aspects because bodily expression had been so powerfully restricted by moral

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and political institutions. Peter Brown notes the antecedent context of this rebellion: Writing at the end of the second century, Clement of Alexandria, a Christian who knew his pagan authors well, summed up with admirable clarity and fairness the essence of the expectations of the body. … Pagan philosophers, he knew, subscribed to an austere image of the person: The human ideal of continence, I mean that which is set forth by the Greek philosophers, teaches one to resist passion, so as not to be made subservient to it, and to train the instincts to pursue rational goals. But Christians, he added, went further: ‘our ideal is not to experience desire at all.’ (Brown, 2005: 308) Nineteenth-century Romantics (such as Thoreau, Whitman and Baudelaire) foregrounded their bodies and bodily senses in their writing practices, celebrating the body’s liberation from Christian suppression by relocating God into nature and embracing Him there, and indeed by finding Him expressed in their own bodies. Each handled differently the business of reconciling God with their passions. In 1854 Thoreau wrote: God himself culminates in the present moment…. And we are enabled to apprehend at all what is sublime and noble only by the perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality which surrounds us. (Thoreau, 1897: 153) In his 1855 poem ‘Song of Myself’, Whitman stated: Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from, The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer, This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds … If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my own body, or any part of it. . . . (Whitman, 2014) In 1846 Baudelaire brought together intimacies of the body, the quest for the divine, and arts practice with: To say the word Romanticism is to say modern art – that is, intimacy, spirituality, color, aspiration towards the infinite, expressed by every means available to the arts. (Baudelaire, 1956: 44)


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William Blake’s writing – for example in his Songs of Experience (1794) – was forthrightly radical because it advocated visceral rebellion against religion’s restrictive dogma. Interestingly, Blake broke with tradition in other ways by illustrating – or illuminating – his own poetry books (Figure 1.1). His writing about Christianity’s restrictions on the body involved the many bodily skills involved in poetry, painting, and engraving. Blake did not merely advocate liberation of the senses, he practised it, and gave opportunity to the reader to practise a fuller range of senses in the reading. Similarly, D.H. Lawrence outraged his society by writing openly about a variety of sexual behaviours in Lady Chatterley’s Lover and other works, but drew added attention to his literary rebellion with equally powerful and beautiful paintings, 13 of which were famously seized by authorities from an exhibition at the Warren Gallery in London in 1929. I remember reading both Blake and Lawrence at university but the fact that these writers were multi-arts practitioners was not part of my education. There was no attempt (that I recall) to read Blake’s poetry multimodally or to consider the visual Lawrence against the prose one – or if there was, I was not at the time multimodally literate enough to pick up on the enhanced possibilities of the bigger reading. I studied in a progressive and creative English department, but there was no recognition of cross-artform reading in the curriculum. Those writers who allowed the body to take a greater part in the writing process (by walking in nature or the city, by responding with multiple senses and skillsets) found responding in more than one mode to be quite natural. To talk about multimodal literacy is to talk about the body – about reading with more of the body than previously – and writing with more. The idea that we write with predominantly our minds has had currency since Descartes divided the two and segregated the mind to the domain of higher pursuits. Romantic writers like Thoreau, Whitman and even William Wordsworth acknowledged the significance of the body as multichannelled receptor, as ideas factory and storehouse for incoming information (see Krauth, 2010). In the 20th century, this acknowledgment appeared in projects like James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), where the narrative and its structure are indivisible from the act of walking the streets of Dublin, or in William H. Gass’s Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife, where reading the sensual prose blends into reading the photographs of a woman’s naked body (Figure 1.2). While millions of bodies were mangled in world wars in the early 20th century, and while many more millions were oppressed by the politics of slavery and colonialism in the century before, writers had reacted by attempting to liberate the body in text. The domains of perception and voice began to expand with literary and popular texts focusing on more

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Figure 1.1 William Blake, ‘The Garden of Love’, original plate, artwork and poem, 1794 I went to the Garden of Love. And I saw what I never had seen: A Chapel was built in the midst, Where I used to play on the green. And the gates of this Chapel were shut, And Thou shalt not, writ over the door; So I turn’d to the Garden of Love, That so many sweet flowers bore. And I saw it was filled with graves, And tomb-stones where flowers should be: And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds, And binding with briars, my joys & desires. (Blake, 1967: 44) Source: Wikimedia Commons. See


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Figure 1.2 William H. Gass, Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife, 1968 Source: Gass (1998: n.p.).

parts of the body, especially the sexual parts, and printed language admitted more words, especially the profane. The sense of touch, so undeveloped in literary writing and so clearly considered ‘out of bounds’, was opened up for intimate discussion in works like Tenderness (the original title for Lady Chatterley’s Lover) – not without (legal and economic) pain, of course, for writers such as D.H. Lawrence who dared to broach the subject. One aspect of this – the feminist project to give voice to the ‘dark continent’ of the female body – has partially fulfilled its admirable objective to find a feminine language. Writing’s battle against restrictions to the senses paralleled similar battles on the performance and visual arts fronts which involved allowing the naked body on stage and de-conventionalizing the nude in art, thus recognizing the touchable body as a major player in arts practice, not something hiding in the wings/background. On the music arts front the battle involved the recognition of bodily noise – e.g. breathing – as part of the spectrum of music. These were all aspects of a movement towards allowing the full range of modes (as related to all the senses) into the lexicon of examination and expression in arts practice and reading. The spectrum of input and expression was opened up to cater for the expanding demands of input – especially technological input – into the individual body and the cultural responses this evoked. As the 20th century progressed it became clear that the old range of limited and siloized ‘readings’ of the world were not coping. The 20th century was a century of human preparation for multimodality because of the need to respond to the world in complex multimodal ways. In her 1927 essay ‘Poetry, fiction and the future’, Virginia Woolf wrote: ‘On all sides writers are attempting what they cannot achieve, forcing the

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form they use to contain a meaning which is strange to it’ (Woolf, 2009: 74). She had elaborated on this in her 1921 essay ‘Modern fiction’: Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old. … Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration of complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible? We are not pleading merely for courage and sincerity; we are suggesting that the proper stuff of fiction is a little other than custom would have us believe it. (Woolf, 2009: 9) And, as Anaïs Nin said half-way through the century, I have only discarded the novel’s explicit and direct statement in order to match the way we truly see and feel, in images resembling film sequences. … It is a curious anomaly that we listen to jazz, we look at modern paintings, we live in modern houses of modern design, we travel in jet planes, yet we continue to read novels written in a tempo and style which is not of our time and not related to any of these influences. The new swift novel could match our modern life in speed, rhythms, condensation, abstraction, miniaturization, X rays of our secrets, a subjective gauge of external events. It could be born of Freud, Einstein, jazz, and science. (Nin, 1976: 27, 29)

Collage, Multimodality and Radicality The Radical, as I describe it, was the concept that fuelled writers who investigated multimodality without knowing the term and did not have digital processes to assist them. The multimodal, as we recognize it now, came into focus in the 20th century with the advent of the art poster and the film, because text and visuals were readily incorporated there – something not straightforwardly effected in the theatre which was nevertheless already a multimodal form. In the early 20th century, the collage techniques of the Cubists showed the possibilities of editing together different perspectives


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and, indeed (with film’s use of written intertitles and Cubism’s use of found printed material) those different modes included the textual. Collage is the key idea for the Radical. Collage was never the bringing together of the like – it brought together the unlike, or the like in unlike ways. Initially it involved assemblages on a single plane, in a single dimension and in a single mode, with logics and expectations not normally seen in that mode (as in early Cubist paintings which distorted perspective yet kept it all as a painting). But Picasso’s pasting of a cutting from a real newspaper onto the surface of a painting, and Tzara’s cut-up of a newspaper glued to a page to create a performable poem, involved more than one dimension and more than one mode. Generally, collage produced refracted, fragmented visions along with disrupted products which seemed like they were falling apart. But this was a great learning experience. It taught us there were other ways to read and view: that narrative, for example, did not have to be linear for it to convey insightful messages, and that a painting or written work could be deeply meaningful and aesthetically exciting without being apparently mimetic or ‘representational’. The multimodal was the next step for collage because it pieced together different modes and different dimensions. It did not bring together diverse or fragmented elements from sectors of a single mode to create seeming illogics; it combined elements from different modes and retained the logics of each mode in parallel. Thus a poem could look like a painting and could be read as both at once. Or a novel could simultaneously be a photographic study. In this type of reading, the linear gives way to the rhizomic. ‘Life-likeness’ is put onto a different scale, not limited by what any single mode can fabricate, but comprising what a combination of modes can achieve together. By combining modes, writers sought to portray the complexity of life more convincingly. Many experiments undertaken by writers in the 20th century explored the field now recognized as multimodal writing. The earliest attempts to write multimodally were dubbed ‘simultanist’ (or ‘simultaneist’), and indeed a sub-group of Cubists and Dadaist were recognized as Simultanists (these included the writers Apollinaire and Tzara). Based on the techniques of the Cubist painters (where several different perspectives on an object were viewed simultaneously), Simultanist poems collaged together sensual impulses – auditory, spatial and visual – not previously incorporated into the domain of writing. In his Dictionnaire du Dadaïsme, Georges Hugnet defined the Simultanist poem, saying its aim was ‘to give an aesthetic expression to plurality instead of unity, to the plural instead of the singular and to the dynamism of modern times’ (Hugnet, quoted in Brill, 2010: 83). In the first decade of the 20th century the dynamics of urban life rapidly accelerated, with cars newly plying the roads, planes clattering in the skies and a general sense that machinery was on the rise. As never before,

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especially in the cities, people’s senses were assailed with sounds, sights and smells, much of which came from new technology. Dada painter and collagist George Grosz wrote: Oh sacred simultaneity: streets rushing onto the paper; the starry sky circles above the red head; the tram bursts into the picture; the telephones ring; women scream in childbirth; whilst knuckle-dusters and steel knife rest peacefully in the hot trouserpocket of the pimp; the labyrinths of mirrors; the magic street gardens where Circe transforms men into swine. (Grosz, quoted in Brill, 2010: 82) Dorothée Brill says of this passage by Grosz: Describing the interlacing and superimposition of impressions as both a visual and acoustic experience, Grosz seems to deliver both a description of the Simultaneist poem and of the collage, both responding to the violent confrontation with multilayered, unstructured, and excessive sensorial impulses. (Brill, 2010: 83; see Figure 1.3)

Figure 1.3 John Heartfield and George Grosz, Leben und Treiben in Universal-City 12 Uhr 5 mittags (Life and Activity in Universal City at 12:05 Midday, 1919–20), 1920 Source:


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Apollinaire’s 1914 poem ‘Lettre-Océan’ (‘Ocean-Letter’ – see next chapter) was simultanist in that it used verbal/textual and spatial elements simultaneously, and also brought together settings and events from far-flung quarters of the globe, linked by modern forms of communication. The key idea, that the eye reads the textual, visual and plastic channels on the multifaceted page in a reading which is itself a sort of performance, has another channel (the auditory) involved when the text is performed. An early performance of a spoken Simultanist poem happened in 1916 at the Café Voltaire in Zurich, when a poem called ‘L’amiral cherche une maison à louer’ (‘The Admiral Looks for a House to Rent’) was performed by its authors, Richard Huelsenbeck, Marcel Janco and Tristan Tzara (Figure 1.4). The poem has three separate texts in three different languages (German, French and English) and these are read simultaneously to the cacophonous accompaniment of whistles, drums and clacking instruments. (A rendition is available at Huelsenbeck et al., 2013.) Huelsenbeck said the poem was intended to describe life as ‘an almighty and attractive mess’ and that the use of simultaneity involved ‘the concomitance of dissimilar incidents’ which were ‘a direct reference to life’ (Huelsenbeck, quoted in Brill, 2010: 82).

Figure 1.4 Richard Huelsenbeck, Marcel Janco and Tristan Tzara, ‘L’amiral cherche une maison à louer’ (‘The Admiral Looks for a House to Rent’), 1916 Source:

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We can see today that Simultanism was an investigation of multimodal writing and reading processes. Dada writer and artist Raoul Hausmann linked it to ‘the enhancement and mastership of all our senses’ (Hausmann, quoted in Brill, 2010: 84). Brill analyzes that: Dada’s demand for simultaneity [was] perceived as a necessary and inevitable feature of the individual’s receptive disposition and developed as mimicking reality’s unstructured mixture of chaotic and heterogeneous events. … [In] Dada’s shift from an intellectual level of reception to the perceptive level of experience as a reaction to the observed conditions of modern life … Dada artists did not abandon the traditional artistic endeavor of a mimetic reproduction of the world, but sought for its actualization in order to do justice in the changed features of this world. (Brill, 2010: 84–85) Writers’ attempts to describe or ‘theorize’ – or even be recognized for – investigating multimodal writing and reading were hampered by a key aspect of critical thinking at the time. As Johanna Drucker explains: It became clear that the development of criticism in both literary and visual arts had, by mid [20th] century, come to define these realms in terms of a mutually exclusive set of assumptions … predicated on the assertion that visuality was equivalent to muteness, that modern art had fulfilled its teleological aim through achieving a condition of plenitudinous presence, and that all ties with literature, literary modes, or linguistic signification had been severed as part of the so-called autonomy of modern art. The distortions introduced by such assertions into the history and theoretical understanding of early modernism are enormous … the stance of oppositional definition – that visuality was defined in part by its exclusion of literary or linguistic activity – was echoed by the definition of literature within American New Criticism, and somewhat differently within French Structuralist criticism. Here literary value was pursued as a play of verbal terms which functioned as signs, surrogates, for a proliferating but always absent meaning – a meaning unsullied by such contingencies as authorship, intention, or historical circumstances. (Drucker, 1996: 4) Thus works which refused to resolve into separate visual or verbal modes were outlawed and kept well off mainstream interpretative agendas. Cubist, Dadaist and Surrealist writers explained and theorized their investigations in various manifestos, but the idea that the text and the page could be


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adapted to encompass all the senses did not achieve mainstream or academic popularity – it was simply too radical for critical taste. By the time the American radical writers were theorizing their practice, the study of Semiotics had introduced the beginnings of a language that allowed an understanding of the ways the textual and the visual might be read together. Roland Barthes’ influential 1964 description of reading an advertisement for Panzani pasta sauce products – in ‘Rhetoric of the image’ – is the classic work in the field (Barthes, 1977: 32–51). In explaining what he is reading when gazing at the advertisement, Barthes describes how he identifies the elements that the multimodal text comprises (linguistic + visual signifiers), how he goes about exploring and sorting through the significations prompted by the elements (applying knowledge implanted in his memory by his verbal/textual and visual experiences), and then how he assembles in a common space of understanding the set of significances that reflects the composition of the ‘coherent whole’ of the advertisement as he sees it (Barthes, 1977: 34–37). As the eye explores and interprets, the coordinating mind contemplates a swirl of literal and symbolic images and perceptual and cultural messages. Out of ‘this confusion in reading’ (Barthes, 1977: 36), by reconsideration of ‘each type of message … in its generality’, is produced an ‘understanding [of] the overall structure’ of the work and ‘the final inter-relationship of the three messages … the linguistic message, the denoted message, and the connoted message’ (Barthes, 1977: 37). So reading a multimodal work is a combinatory game, a time spent in a maze while the senses, cognition, memory and emotions work out just which of the signifying strands are to be woven together to find the solution to the puzzle, the way out to meaning. Barthes said: All images are polysemous; they imply, underlying their signifiers, a ‘floating chain’ of signifieds, the reader able to choose some and ignore others. Polysemy poses a question of meaning and this question always comes through as a dysfunction, even if this dysfunction is recuperated by society as a tragic (silent, God provides no possibility of choosing between signs) or a poetic (the panic ‘shudder of meaning’ of the Ancient Greeks) game. (Barthes, 1977: 39) The ‘tragic’ outcome, for experimental writing’s audiences, has been that timid or lazy readers have feared too much the grasp of experimental writing’s incomprehension. Its seemingly difficult multilayering becomes a game they do not wish to play. On the other hand, the delights of multimodal reading have been enjoyed for more than a century by those who have

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approached it with a degree of Keatsian negative capability – allowing themselves to be caught up in the rollercoaster ride of read it and see what happens – just as we do with experiencing the world. It is noticeable that Barthes describes a visual image as having ‘a “floating chain” of signifieds’, but the same could be said of words when used in poetry and poetic prose generally. You don’t get it at the first reading; you roam around in the poetic. The writer seeks to create layers of possibility and significance; crafted ambiguity allows the text to explode subtly into meaning and emotional experience, with varied readings for various readers. In visual poetry from Apollinaire onwards, words and visuals have worked together in similar ways: both are to be read poetically. But the same is true for experimental prose involving graphics, photography or concrete layout design. The narrative on the page is meant to be read just like Barthes reads his pasta advertisement or Apollinaire says his poems should be read. A key aspect of Barthes reading his advertisement is that it describes a collaging process in his brain. The elements – literal, denoted and connoted – are different kinds of messages taken from different contexts, and they arrive via different channels. They have to be ‘pasted together’ – to be fixed – in the process which creates for the reader an understanding of the work.

2 The Radical in the 20th Century

Sites of Experimentation Building on earlier literary stirrings, some notable 20th-century writers sought to break free of the strictures erected around the conceptualizing, structuring and publishing of fiction. There seemed many possibilities for the novel and the short story, not only in terms of their internal features (language, structure, length) but also in terms of their relationships with other written genres (the playscript, the exegesis, journalism, non-fiction) and other artforms (visual arts, performance, sculpture, music, film). In 1971, in the introduction to his experimental story anthology Anti-Story, Philip Stevick pointed to the ‘shared assumptions’ across the arts ‘concerning the experimental, anti-traditional role of art’ and the ‘dazzling pantheon’ of innovative writers, especially novelists (‘late James and late Conrad, Proust, Mann, Gide, Joyce, Beckett, Faulkner’) who represented the age by seeing ‘that artistic innovation is a kind of triumph, a tribute to the energy of art, that it should be able, again and again, to show us what we haven’t seen before, by means of techniques that perpetually astonish us’ (Stevick, 1971: xi). But Stevick also noted the negative effects of this astonishment. Confronted with new works that were often ‘perverse, bizarre, subversive’ and difficult to comprehend because readers did not have the ‘critical formulae’ with which to read or judge them, the audience for innovative fiction was frustrated as often as fascinated (Stevick, 1971: xi). Experimental fiction puzzled many and excited far fewer. Nevertheless, brave publishing houses supported unconventional works which rarely sold in large numbers, but were deemed culturally valuable. As we shall see, most of these works were aimed at changing the way we read: they sought to challenge and educate, to provide examples of writing that readers weren’t familiar with. With hindsight we 40

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can see that the majority of these experiments were precursors to hypermedia – attempts to release narrative from the binding of the book, to lift story from the static page, to free text from its frozen form in typeface. Without knowing that computer technology would be able to do all this for them when the new century arrived, audacious writers attempted, on paper, to introduce multimodal reading into literature and to help readers escape the monomodal literacy imposed by the two previous centuries. While Radical writing in the 20th century was effectively confined to being a genre on its own, currently we see the culmination of its experimentation not on the fringes of publishing but in paper and digital outcomes in the mainstream. Writerly experiments of the 20th century cover a broad spectrum – from the ultimate in minimalism to an extreme of maximalism. The book with blank pages stands at the minimalist end of this spectrum. Craig Dworkin in No Medium (2013) surveys a number of books with no printing in them at all, including Jiří Valoch’s 55-page Book about Nothing (published in Brno, 1970) and bpNichol’s eight-page A Condensed History of Nothing (published in Toronto, 1970) (Dworkin, 2013: 175). These textless books are writerly equivalents of John Cage’s famous 4’33’ (1952) – a silent musical work – or paintings by Kasimir Malevich in 1918 (White on White, one white square painted on another) and Robert Rauschenberg in 1951 (White Paintings, blank white canvases). Several published written works include blank pages where the reader might expect to find significant text. As early as 1761 Laurence Sterne used a blank page in Volume 6 of Tristram Shandy to replace a description of a character; more than 200 years later the blank page still had an impact, notably in Gordon Lish’s novel Arcade, or How to Write a Novel (1998), where on several occasions (amounting to 43 pages in a 178-page novel) the frustrated narrator abandons the narrative and leaves the readers to extemporize as best they can. Ultimately, the creation and manipulation of blank areas on the page underlie the principles informing concrete poetry and prose. Novels by Raymond Federman and B.S. Johnson, using typographical layout and white space in concrete ways throughout, provide good examples. In the 21st century, one particularly interesting example of the absent text is Nick Thurston’s Reading the Remove of Literature (2006), where the author’s marginal notes to an original book – Maurice Blanchot’s The Space of Literature – are printed with Blanchot’s text absent, creating a void at the centre of each annotated page where the text should be. The surrounding marginalia often look like the frames for missing portraits, with the voids at the centre being ghost-portraits of the missing work, as if the canvas depicting Blanchot’s text has been stolen in a daring gallery heist. Here writing revels in removing itself. At the maximalist end of the spectrum, writers have striven for the book to do much more than readers conventionally thought possible. Writers have


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pursued the idea that the novel would not just represent reality, but would almost become it. In the 1920s, Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upton proposed a collection of stories, set in the fictional village of Mortmere, where the book itself would be ‘illustrated with oil paintings, brasses and carvings. It was to incorporate fireworks displays, recorded music, even appropriate odors, and would contain gifts for friends and booby-traps for enemies’ (McHale, 1987: 180). The book remained a speculation for its authors, although the Mortmere stories were eventually published more conventionally (Isherwood & Upward, 1994). Multimodal readers of the 21st century will recognize that Isherwood and Upward described a kind of narrative that is much more possible today. A hypermedia fiction can incorporate moving images of fireworks displays, soundtracks of recorded music, and links to online gift sites, etc. Odours are not yet part of smart technology literary offerings, although novelty bodily experience was experimented with in Smell-O-Vision (the 1960s) and Sensurround (the 1970s) in the cinema. More recently, tactile feedback in haptic technologies has become commonplace, especially applied to fictional worlds in video games, but also hypothesized in the wearable book (Katz, 2014). The idea that the book might emit sounds or smells, or move about, or generally be a more dynamic interface, was imagined well before the 20th century. Laurence Sterne insisted on the book being a richer reading experience when he provided a blank page for the reader to draw their own version of the character Widow Wadman – so that the description of her as the most desirable creature in the world would ring true (Figure 2.1). Sterne combined this kind of effect (including also a black page and a marbled page) with a narrative technique that involved conversing with the reader throughout in order to reveal what was going on behind the scenes in creating the novel. He discussed the variety of plotlines, the narrative structure, the creation of characters and other exegetical matters, all of which was designed to prevent the reader from lapsing into a comfortable monomodal reading of the text. Sterne’s pioneering of the interactive novel page in Tristram Shandy continues to astonish us today. In another field of publishing – the movable book – the possibility of an enhanced reading experience was investigated with equal sophistication. For example, the famous 19th-century writer-artist and paper engineer Lothar Meggendorfer combined graphics, pull-tab interactive page movement, and poetry text, to tell 19th-century stories that looked and moved as if they were on 21st-century screens (Figure 2.2). Equally advanced for its time was The Speaking Picture Book, published in 1893 (see 69mechanik, 2007; Little Book Store, 2011). Operated by the reader pulling tabs, the book incorporated a system of bellows which

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Figure 2.1 Laurence Sterne, pp. 146 and 147 of Vol. 6 of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 7th edn, printed for J. Dodsley and dated 1768 Source: Sterne (2000).

Figure 2.2 Lothar Meggendorfer, The Monkey Theater, 1893. This is a still shot. Sword arm and monkey with broom move in the original Source:


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produced the sounds of animals (cats, birds, cows, etc.) featured in the story and the pictures. Pop-up, pull-tab, panoramic and other paper-engineered works – where more than monomodal reading was required – involved forward-thinking conceptions of the book, but were relegated to entertainment, novelty, popular and children’s classifications. With hindsight we can see that they formed an important strand in the development of thinking about the possibilities of the book and story narrative. Meggendorfer and other 19thcentury experimenters looked across the arts – from writing to graphics and visual design, to cutting and reassembling, to paper sculpture and to wooden and paper technologies – in pursuit of the idea that the page could achieve more. In doing so they laid down a territory of investigation significantly explored in the century following. Radical writers have thought newly not only about the materiality or construction of the book, but also the potential of words, the page, narrative structure, size, scope and range, visuals and graphics, sound and text, the ‘real’ and the ‘fictional’, and the exegetical, as sites of experimentation where a new perception of our world might be pursued. The development of radical practice among European artists and writers in the 1910s and 1920s formed part of a growing, shared sense of a new ‘political’ dimension to creative work. It was becoming clearer that progressive-thinking artists and writers belonged to a movement all their own – an avant-garde – and that their work could have significant social and political influence. This sense of influence expressed itself not so much in political action per se (although writers and artists did join political parties and social movements), but more it was potent in the content, form and performance of their work. The overall sense was that the work being done was good for the world and good for the progress of society; that arts practice could (and must) pave the way for thinking differently and discovering new perspectives for living in the world. Getting rid of restrictive conventions, categories and stale ways of seeing were at the head of the avant-garde agenda which also, in its understanding of itself as a grand human enterprise, crossed political, cultural and artform boundaries. In the paintings of Spaniard Pablo Picasso and Frenchman Georges Braque, in the theatre of German Bertolt Brecht and Frenchman Antonin Artaud, in the novels of Irishman James Joyce and Frenchman Jean Cocteau, in the poetry of American/British T.S. Eliot and American e.e. cummings, in the music of Austrian Arnold Schoenberg and the photography of American Man Ray – as also in film, dance, opera, etc. – the experimental and iconoclastic in arts practice were increasingly recognized as belonging to a globe-spanning surge forward that was part of the intellectual world renewing itself after the politically induced

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horrors of 1914–1918. Avant-garde political and cultural impulses were transformed into Radical arts thinking and practices. WWI provided the impetus and momentum for the proliferation of arts movements in the period. Cubism, Fauvism, Simultanism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism – and many others, all of them avant-garde in their aims – carried on ideas pioneered by individuals in earlier centuries who had already modelled processes of iconoclastic thinking. Twentieth-century avant-garde movements trace their intellectual ancestry especially to two confronting iconoclasts, the Marquis de Sade (1740–1824) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). English innovative writing continues to hold dear another iconoclast, Laurence Sterne (1713–1768). Iconoclasm, by definition, breaks apart the images and objects held sacred by the status quo. The cutting and scattering done by collage is iconoclastic. Gregory Ulmer says: By most accounts, collage is the single most revolutionary formal innovation in artistic representation to occur in [the 20th] century. Although the technique itself is ancient, collage was introduced into the ‘high arts’ … as a solution … which finally provided an alternative to the ‘illusionism’ of perspective which had dominated Western painting since the early Renaissance. (Ulmer, 1998: 94) Linear representations of reality were based in scientific, not psychological, models. Cubist writers scattered lines of poetry across the page because seeing and thinking were as important as reading. Dada poets cut-andpasted clippings from newspapers because poetry was a real-world communication practice. Surrealist filmmakers edited scenes together in alarmingly random order because life comes at us in unedited sequences. Novelists abandoned chronological plotline structures while mixing and warping diegetic narrative levels because they wanted to make fiction less illusional and more real. Collage (cutting up/cutting out/cutting through) and montage (re-assemblage) underlie all Radical thinking and process. In politics it is the paradigm for revolution, as also for subtle shifts of adjustment that require more nuanced political surgery and repair. In rhetoric it describes the nature of forward-moving debate, where ideas are dissected and discarded to allow for new more persuasive arrangements. In everyday life, it is the pattern we use to handle much of living: we look at what we’ve got, separate out the bits that aren’t working, re-form our views, and get on with it. And in the creative arts, it is the paradigm that describes the innovative manoeuvres of Radical practice.


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Ulmer calls collage/montage a process used ‘in order to intervene in the world, not to reflect but to change reality’ (Ulmer, 1998: 97). Quoting Derrida, he insists that it is a positive process: the cutting and assemblage is like the cutting made by a horticulturist for a graft. With a new element introduced into the old, the aim is growth into something better. Derrida describes the use of collage in writing: … two texts are transformed, deform each other, contaminate each other’s content, tend at times to reject each other, or pass elliptically one into the other and become regenerated in the repetition along the edges of an overcast seam. Each grafted text continues to radiate back toward the site of its removal, transforming that too, as it affects the new territory. (Derrida, quoted in Foster, 1985: 90, italics in original) This is the essence of Radical writing. A writer gets bold, attempts the impossible, makes a fool of themselves, stumbles upon a new path forward, and eventually we thank them for their brilliance. Avant-garde thinking tells us what’s wrong with what we’ve got, provides a plan for doing something about it, and models the possible (or seemingly impossible) way forward that Radical practice puts into action. Not all Radical experiments work: it goes with the territory. Our culture has relied on Radicals – the trail-blazers, the agents of new growth – to lead it on.

Cubist Writing: Text as Visual Art It is generally acknowledged that the calligrammes invented by Guillaume Apollinaire between 1913 and 1916 (published in 1918) were the most influential pieces of experimental writing at the start of a century which would significantly devote itself to radical experiments. Working in Paris before WWI, Apollinaire was a founder and key commentator on the Cubist movement which we associate more readily with painting than with writing – he was the model for the first Cubist portrait (painted by Jean Metzinger in 1909–1910), he wrote one of the first Cubist catalogue prefaces (1911), and he coined the word ‘surrealism’ (1917). Being closely associated with Picasso, Braque and Delaunay, Apollinaire saw the possibilities of the new painting experiments for appropriation and further investigation in writing. An example demonstrating cross-fertilization between writing and the visual arts in Apollinaire’s work is his poem ‘La Mandoline, l’œillet et le bambou’ (‘Mandolin, Carnation and Bamboo’) (1913–1916). Always published in manuscript (Figure 2.3), this poem is set out remarkably like cubist

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Figure 2.3 Guillaume Apollinaire, ‘La Mandoline, l’œillet et le bambou’ (‘Mandolin, Carnation and Bamboo’), 1913–1916 Source: Mandoline,_l%E2%80%99%C5%93illet_et_le_bambou.png.

still-life paintings which used the opposing diagonals of the stringed musical instrument and a pipe-like form (e.g. a clarinet, a scroll held in a plaster arm, a tall-stemmed pedestal bowl) along with the contrasting shape of a vegetal form. (See, for example, Braque’s Guitar and Fruit Dish, 1909; Juan Gris’ Guitar and Clarinet, 1920; or Picasso’s Mandolin, Fruit Bowl, and Plaster Arm, 1925). Each of these experimental paintings combines the three elements – stringed instrument, pipe-like shape and flowers/fruit – for powerful visual and emotional effect. In Apollinaire’s poem, the Cubist relationship between the objects is replicated; there is a highly informed visual sensibility at work.


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However, the poem is not only about visual, aural and textual impacts, which are the easiest modes to represent on paper. Translated, the mandolin shape is made of words which strongly implicate the tactile sense: … oh battles earth trembles like a mandolin … PIERCES SOUND … AS THE BULLET pierces the BODY … (Apollinaire, 2004: 113) The intimacy of the trembling of the mandolin applied to the impact of the bullet, particularly when reinforced visually by the trace of the strings entering the body of the instrument, is disconcertingly palpable (to say the least) in a holistic reading sense. At the same time, the words in the flower element concern the olfactory sense: Let this carnation tell you the law of odors that has not yet been promulgated and will some day rule over our brains far more + precisely & + subtly than the sounds which direct us I prefer your nose to your other organs oh my dear It is the throne of the future WI SDO M (Apollinaire, 2004: 113)

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The conjuring of the scent of the carnation relies on a synaesthetic response to the shape and associations of the flower, and is perhaps the least immediate of the sensual experiences provoked by the poem although, being in competition/alliance with the words of the opium pipe – ‘nose of the pipe of the pivotal odours’ – the poem’s insistent talk about odours eventually creates an unavoidable provocation in the reader to react with the memory of smells. Working through its full range of sensual stimuli (even taste is evoked by the beckoning open mouth of the pipe), ‘Mandolin, Carnation and Bamboo’ tells us that ‘the truth for REASON is your Art’ (top left body of mandolin): it is a poem about Reason’s links to all five of the senses, how the senses have the capacity to rule reason in the poet’s revolutionary world, and how the matrix of sensual and intellectual modes may be represented in writing. In 1918, Apollinaire said of his visual poetry: As for Calligrammes, it is the idealization of the poetry of free verse and of a typographical precision at the moment when typography was brilliantly terminating its career, in the dawn of the era of new means of reproduction: the cinema and the phonograph. (Apollinaire, quoted in Drucker, 1996: 154, translated from a letter written to André Billy) The poet’s premature notice of the death of printing was undoubtedly an outcome of the enthusiasm he felt for his discovery of the multimodal possibilities of reading and writing. There are ways, of course, in which his prognostication is correct and far-sighted by nearly 80 years. In the terms available to him at the time, Apollinaire describes the capacities of the hypermedia screen page: [I have] attempted to accustom the mind to conceiving of a poem simultaneously as a scene from life … [to accustom] the eye to read the whole poem in a single glance … just as people see both the illustrated and printed elements of a sign at the same time. (Apollinaire, 2008a: 646–647) Further, one of the first subjects he used for his visual poetry was global communications. The major visual elements in the 1914 poem ‘Lettre-Océan’ (‘Ocean-Letter’) are taken from the international postcard, the radio tower (i.e. the Eiffel Tower seen from above), the gramophone record and the shape of radio waves (Figure 2.4). This stunning poem not only makes a bold prediction about new modes of writing, it also focuses on the nascent technologies by which they would ultimately be achieved. In addition, the words Apollinaire uses indicate his


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Figure 2.4 Guillaume Apollinaire, ‘Lettre-Océan’ (‘Ocean-Letter’), 1914 Source:

insight into language experiments which would occupy writers throughout the 20th century. Couched as both a letter sent from the isolation of a ship at sea, and also as an invisible witness’s movement through the babble of a city/culture, the poem uses snippets from political slogans, slang expressions, sexual innuendoes, police directives, railway guard and bus conductor instructions, restaurant menus, newspaper advertisements and other conversational exchanges. The explosive babble of communication and media from which we collage artworks in the 21st century is fully envisioned here. (For two detailed readings of ‘Ocean-Letter’, see Greet & Lockerbie, 2004: 380– 382; Bohn, 1993: 17–24.)

Dadaist Writing: The Cut-up In their manifestos of 1916 and 1918, the Dadaists endorsed ‘abolition of logic, which is the dance of those impotent to create’ (Tzara, 2013) – a dance playing out, for example, in the World War that raged around them. Instead

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of logic they promoted artistic freedom: ‘a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE’ (Tzara, 2013). Faced with the chaos and devastation of war – which was the apparent logical outcome of the progress of civilization – they embraced the seeming illogic of artistic structures that pulled things apart and jumbled them up, that deconstructed things and made new collaged arrangements. Life was clearly anarchic, as war evidenced, so why not celebrate the freedoms anarchy suggested in art? Tristan Tzara talked about a kind of writing in which laws wither away. Every page must explode, either by profound heavy seriousness, the whirlwind, poetic frenzy, the new, the eternal, the crushing joke, enthusiasm for principles, or by the way in which it is printed. (Tzara, 2013) This manner of writing leaves behind the ‘crippled world and literary quacks with a mania for improvement’ (Tzara, 2013). At one of the Café Voltaire soirees in 1918 in Zurich, Tzara gave these instructions for how to write a poem: Take a newspaper. Take some scissors. Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem. Cut out the article. Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag. Shake gently. Next take out each cutting one after the other. Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag. The poem will resemble you. And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd. (Tzara, quoted in Lewis, 2010) Tzara took his idea from the visual arts, where the Cubists had glued cut-up pieces of found materials into their paintings. Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso had recycled newspaper cuttings in this way, and Tzara suggested that writers could do the same. Appropriation of assemblage techniques by writers carried with it the same objectives the painters had: to show that cutting up and reassembling cultural material represented the kind of real-life rearrangement of perception and thinking that had become


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necessary for survival and communication in the new century. The following example of one of Tzara’s cut-up poems was published in 1920: Cinema Calendar of the Abstract Heart – 09 the fibres give in to your starry warmth a lamp is called green and sees carefully stepping into a season of fever the wind has swept the rivers’ magic and i’ve perforated the nerve by the clear frozen lake has snapped the saber but the dance round terrace tables shuts in the shock of the marble shudder new sober (Tzara, 2004) This poem appeared in a book illustrated with Hans Arp’s abstract woodcuts (Figure 2.5). MoMA has commented: ‘Tzara collages elements of language into unexpected associative strings, while Arp uses the organic forms of his woodcuts to evoke the unceasing transformations of nature’ (MoMA, 2013). The unexpected-ness in the reading of this book came not only from the separately abstract qualities of text and image, there was also the challenge of reading the two together. Why did this image have to go with that poem? What logical relationship is there? The 1920s reader would have asked such questions (as too, perhaps, would the unsophisticated 21st-century reader).

Figure 2.5 Open page from Hans Arp and Tristan Tzara, Cinema Calendrier du Coeur Abstrait, Maisons (Cinema Calendar of the Abstract Heart, Houses), 1920 Source:

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The point of the exercise was that the reader was indeed forced to search out the connections and ask the questions. There was clearly playfulness involved, and irreverence for the expected relationship between a text and its illustration. Not just tearing up ‘meaningful’ structures in their own artforms, Tzara and Arp also tore up and reassembled the conventional logics between reading and viewing – those seen in the predictable instruction-manual illustration or the explanatory silent film intertitle. Tzara and Arp targeted the conventional idea that writer and artist could only ever do things in parallel; they forced the reader to consider the iconoclastic idea that writer and artist could collaborate in a two-pronged interwoven experimental investigation. Another Dadaist, Hugo Ball, said in 1916 of the new sort of writing he was doing: It’s a question of connections, and of loosening them up a bit to start with. I don’t want words that other people have invented. All the words are other people’s inventions. I want my own stuff, my own rhythm, and vowels and consonants too, matching the rhythm and all my own. … A line of poetry is a chance to get rid of all the filth that clings to this accursed language, as if put there by stockbrokers’ hands, hands worn smooth by coins. I want the word where it ends and begins. Dada is the heart of words. (Ball, 2011) In Ball’s sound poems, words are used like cut-outs from a variety of languages. For the 1916 Café Voltaire performance of his sound poem ‘Karawane’, his costume too was a cut-out (Figure 2.6). Ball played with tones, dramas and structures which sounded nonsensical but in performance evoked new meanings that the viewer was in charge of making. The nonsensical sounds in Ball’s performance were replicated in the mismatch of fonts used in printing the poem. ‘Karawane’ was published as if to replicate a set of collaged line fragments taken from different sources. Dadaist typography, seemingly a chaos of fonts, font colours, punctuation and layout (some of which was far more extreme than that used in the publication of ‘Karawane’) was also designed to challenge the conventional logics bound into our hearing and reading. The Dadaists were offended by category separations, and had a keen sense of how artforms cross-fertilized. Tristan Tzara, who trained in mathematics and philosophy, produced artworks across fields including poetry, plays, performance art, music and film. Hans Arp was a poet, painter and sculptor. Kurt Schwitters, famous for his sculptural mertzbau installations, regularly performed his successful sound poem Ursonate (Original Sonata) (1922–1932). Hugo Ball’s ground-breaking combination of theatrical production with poetry at the Café Voltaire is seen as the beginning of performance art.


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Figure 2.6 Left, Hugo Ball in the Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, 1916, performing his sound poem; right, the poem ‘Karawane’ as published in the Dada Almanach, Berlin, 1920 Source:, and

In their politics and morals, the Dadaists flirted with anarchy. It is not hard to imagine the intensity of the pressure they worked under as they searched for artforms and modes of expression that could articulate the barbarity of the times, and their protest against it. The world itself seemed anarchic as tens of millions died appalling deaths in the war. The excessiveness of the situation, and the obvious need for change, allowed the Dadaists to see through and beyond artistic conventions which disempowered perception and expression. For writing, this meant questioning the constricted values of the 19th-century novel and poetry, and breaking free of them. In his 1918 manifesto, Tristan Tzara wrote: If I cry out: Ideal, ideal, ideal, Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge, Boomboom, boomboom, boomboom, I have given a pretty faithful version of progress, law, morality and all other fine qualities that various highly intelligent men have discussed in

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so many books, only to conclude that after all everyone dances to his own personal boomboom, and that the writer is entitled to his boomboom. … (Tzara, 2013) This sums up the Dadaist position, where Dada came from and what it wanted to do. It was a protest which expressed itself as a celebration of the power of the individual to break the rules cemented into monumental traditions and conventions. It was an assertion that the ways in which cultural institutions did things – including in the creative arts – were likely to become moribund and inflexible, incapable of dealing with ongoing actual changes to lives happening on the ground, lives which the institutions claimed to represent. It questioned the artistic (and religious and cultural) obsession with formalized models of ‘truth’ and ‘truth-seeking’ as provided by the past, and it turned attention towards what is now called ‘emotional truth’, the more subjective record of existence which tolerates fragmentation, passion, personal and multiple viewpoints, the individual body, questions without answers, playfulness, the un-analyzable and the informal. Ironically, Dada went some way towards formalizing the informal and making rules for the breaking of rules. But, at base, Dada was about art reflecting what it is really like to be human. Dada’s valuable legacy is the initial investigations it undertook into artistic processes which would be examined much further in the decades which followed. Dada began to define what being a radical artist meant – the kinds of targets to focus on, the kinds of ground-breaking thinking one could do and products one could make, and an enunciation of the reasons for doing and making them.

Surrealist Writing: Springboards for the Mind Surrealism continued with Dada’s agenda of rebellion of the imagination against the repressive cultures of rationalism, but particularly the movement marshalled its energies into a programme of more ordered collaboration, publication, exhibition, documentation and research. With this focus, the Surrealists went beyond the action-orientation of the Dadaists towards a more academic study of what happens in the brain beyond rational behaviours. Surrealism didn’t just want its rebel voice heard, it wanted to investigate where that voice was coming from. The establishment of the Bureau of Surrealist Research in 1924, in an office at 15 Rue de Grenelle in Paris, indicated the passion the Surrealists held for the investigatory mode. Their pseudo-scientific interest in the psychic realm, and their focus on automatism and dreams, was part of an overarching interest in ‘the actual


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functioning of thought’ (Breton, 1972: 26), based on Freud’s then-recent studies. Referring to his own and Philippe Soupault’s Les champs magnétiques (The Magnetic Fields) as ‘the first purely Surrealist work’, André Breton identified that ‘the words, the images are only so many springboards for the mind of the listener’, or reader, of such a work (Breton, 1972: 35): I no longer proceed except with care in marshy places, and I watch the aerial extremities fuse together at the moment of the skies. I swallow my own smoke which resembles so closely the chimera of others. Avarice is a fine sin covered over by seaweed and sunny encrustations. Except for audacity, we are the same and I do not see myself counting for much. I am afraid of detecting in myself those senile tricks that can be mistaken for the rose-windows of noise. Must one confront the horror of the last hotel-rooms, take part in those hunts! And only then! There are many places in Paris, above all on the left bank, and I am thinking of the little Armenian-paper family. People give it lodging too complacently, I assure you, and that will come to a bad end, and all the more so in that the lodge looks on to an open eye and that the Quai aux Fleurs is deserted at night. (Breton & Soupault, 1920: 69–70) The Magnetic Fields was the product of an automatic writing process described by Breton as: ‘involuntary verbal representation, while avoiding making any sort of qualitative judgment’, which revealed ‘the relative richness and elegance of particular writers’ inner language’ (Breton, 1933: 27). The outcome is not unlike a product of Tristan Tzara’s ‘cut-up’ poetry technique, or a more poetic version of Stein’s writing. Certainly, in reading the text one experiences the same challenge: the brain races, searching for how the pieces can be logically fitted together as they unfold in the process of the reading. While automatic writing may have been aimed at revealing the deep sources of artistic inspiration – the writer’s subconscious workings, and the bypassing of frameworks imposed by the writer’s conscious mind – reading the texts reveals to us mainly how hard our reading brains try to impose those conscious frameworks in attempting to understand. Many experiments which disrupted the linear chronologic of reading were to follow in the 20th century. Buñuel and Dalí’s film Un Chien Andalou (1928) further researched the creative process. It has been regularly interpreted in terms of its examination of dreamlike imagery and ideas springing unfettered from the unconscious. Buñuel wrote: While Dalí and I were making Un Chien Andalou we used a kind of automatic writing. … Our only rule was very simple: No idea or image that

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might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted. We had to open all doors to the irrational and keep only those images that surprised us, without trying to explain why. (Buñuel, 1983: 105, 104) We had to look for the plot line. Dalí said to me, ‘I dreamed last night of ants swarming around in my hands,’ and I said, ‘Good Lord, and I dreamed that I had sliced somebody or other’s eye. There’s the film, let’s go and make it.’ (Buñuel, quoted in Etherington-Smith, 1992: 104) What seems to be missed in discussions of the film is the fact that ‘the plot line’ Buñuel and Dalí found is, of course, no ordinary linear plot line as such things were then thought of (and still are today). The film is, above all else, a study of how our brains attempt to make linear sense of the ‘plot line’, and fail. Try as we may, with heads hardwired to conventional patterns of how narratives unfold and operate, we cannot make strict – or even very loose – sense of much of what is happening in Un Chien Andalou. All sorts of clues are given but they inevitably mislead: subtitles indicate time passing, but these confuse rather than guide us; strongly delineated characters appear, but they morph and act inconsistently; asides and detours are introduced but then persist unaccountably while seemingly major narrative elements disappear; inserts which seem to be there as metaphors and commentary are difficult to relate to the rest of the ‘story’. If you decide to experience Un Chien Andalou with two aims in mind – watching the film at the same time as you watch your brain trying to make sense of what is going on – then you can see the main point of Buñuel and Dalí’s investigation: our minds have been colonised by the force of rationalism in our culture and they cannot escape the logics it governs by. The first thing the film says about ourselves and the way we think and behave is that we are badly equipped to learn new ways of perceiving the world. We are, by culture, linear/chronological-oriented creatures, and not all the world is perceived by the linear/chronological. Max Ernst’s Une semaine de bonté ou Les sept éléments capitaux (A Week of Kindness or the Seven Deadly Elements), a Surrealist collage novel published in 1934, investigated further the reader’s capacity to make a narrative out of disparate elements (Figure 2.7). In this case there were almost no words at all – the narrative was entirely visual, 208 pages in length – each page a cut-up scene made from ‘the relatively crude and usually lurid wood-engraved illustrations of French popular fiction that were plentiful in the books and periodicals of the late nineteenth century’ (Ernst, 1976: vi), natural science journals and sales catalogues. The four works – Tzara’s cut-up poem, Breton and Soupault’s automaticwritten novel, Buñuel and Dalí’s anti-linear film, and Ernst’s collage


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Figure 2.7 From Max Ernst, ‘Quatrième Cahier: Mercredi’ (‘Fourth Book: Wednesday’), Une semaine de bonté ou Les sept éléments capitaux (A Week of Kindness or the Seven Deadly Elements), 1934 Source: Ernst, 1976: 140–141.

novel – taken together show the permutations of collage being worked through. In poetry, prose, film and wordless book, the idea of editing as a creative process in itself was foregrounded. Filmmakers, because their process entailed doing it in fragments or takes almost right from the start, developed insight into the meaning-making of editing early on. The normal process for writers significantly involved editing, but it was not valorized. It was the fixing up part, not the creative investigative part, of what they did. Writers had allowed the conscious mind to be the editor; the new movement was towards loosening that particular editor’s hold on the process. By disturbing the conventions of film and narrative as temporal/linear texts, Tzara, Breton, Soupault, Buñuel, Dalí, Ernst – and others who took Apollinaire’s lead – opened the way for an even more experimental approach. In 1935 Paul Éluard and Man Ray published a book that combined 12 poems with 12 photographs. Titled Facile (Easy), it was not a simplistic catalogue of two different practitioners’ works, nor was it a simple illustrated poetry book. Mary Ann Caws in her survey of Surrealism calls Facile ‘a unique example of these two forms coming together in a remarkable integration’ (Caws, 2011: 128). Facile did not use cut-up techniques but it did subtly integrate image and text (Figure 2.8). Its focus was not intellectual or scientific, but rather, emotional. It was a collection of love poems by Paul Éluard about, and addressed to, his wife Nusch Éluard. It was also a collection of love photographs (if one may coin such a category) taken of Nusch by Man Ray, who employed her regularly as photographic model. It might best be described as a set of love poems expressed both in writing and in photographic forms. The really interesting thing is not just that the two forms were brought together, they were brought

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Figure 2.8 Paul Éluard and Man Ray, Facile (Easy), 1935 Source:

together in such a way that the reader/viewer could experience the same emotional and artistic motives expressed through two different processes. In my opinion, it is clear that both men were in love with this woman, and what we can trace here is how each of them read her – her actions, her mind, her body, her presence – and how each of them transposed that reading into a different mode of telling. This correlation of two poetic approaches allows the reader/ viewer to read Nusch in two different ways at the same time. The text poem and the visual poem is each enhanced by its proximity to and interweaving with the other: the photographs operate as narrative, the body morphs into a text and the text into a body. As a project, Facile is about artistic process in different modes and, indeed, the ease with which multimodal reading can occur. Looking at Figure 2.9 you can read the translation of the poem while shifting your eyes back and forth to the reproduced page, in order to get some feeling for the relationship between the French text and the image. But this is not the same as reading the poem (or the two poems – linguistic and visual) in the original, where the body of the text and the body of the photograph are in such intimate proximity. In the original, the length of lines matches the curve of back and buttocks, and puts poem and photograph into an embrace, almost a spooning, and this is how the work is meant to be read – creating a crossing between text and image that is indeed an intimate embrace. So Facile was about de-silo-izing, about releasing text and image from their segregated categories in the culture. But also the book suggested how easy it was to read in two ways. The assumed complexity of responding to Nusch Éluard in separate art forms was based more in the difficulties of printing and production processes at the time (photography and printing were separate processes; each was expensive and labour intensive) than in actual difficulties of reading. The Surrealists here promoted the concept of


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Figure 2.9 Paul Éluard and Man Ray, Facile (Easy), 1935 Source:; translation of Éluard text by Krauth.

multimodal reading 50 years before the computer screen made such literacy mandatory and the difficulties redundant. Another Surrealist, Georges Hugnet, drew attention to his writing experiments by employing the erotic, but his Seventh Face of the Dice (1936) was more radical in conception than Facile. This collection of 20 poems, which were cut-ups not only from newspapers, magazines and advertisements, but also from found and original photographic images, combined the approaches of Éluard and Ray with those of Tzara. In his poetic-graphic experiments – or ‘poèmes-découpages’ – which combined photo-collage with text collage, Hugnet sought to create major disruptions to reading/viewing processes and to allow imagery and text to interact/intersect/interpenetrate in new ways. His text and body reassemblages disturbed comfortable reading and viewing patterns as readers’ brains tried to make sense of sets of meaning-fragments coming at them in several modes. Not only were linear text conventions transgressed, so too was reading of the two-dimensional. In the poem shown in Figure 2.10,

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a deformed female image is encompassed, made love to, or attacked, by its own or another’s limbs, a mouth and a wig, along with side-shafts from a surrounding collaged text. Ultimately (in my reading at least), a message emerges about bodies and fashion and advertising, and how we are prey to constructions the culture imposes. Although in deconstructing my reading I may identify a tendency to retrofit my 21st-century cultural understanding onto this poem, I nevertheless think it in fact was written from a perspective that prefigured the kind of reading we are more universally capable of today. Hugnet had no way of knowing what a computer screen of the 21st century would look like, but he made a poem that would work well on it. Mary Ann Caws has said that the Surrealists championed a spontaneity based on ‘the poetic … the marvelous … [and the] never predetermined …’ with its jagged edges manifest in their writings and artworks – as a deliberate defying of the linear, rational discourses they held responsible for the catastrophes of war in their time. Often feeling so present in relation

Figure 2.10 Georges Hugnet, La Septième face du de (The Seventh Face of the Dice), 1936 Source: Hugnet, 2013, translation of Hugnet text by Krauth.


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Figure 2.11 Georges Hugnet, La Septième face du de (The Seventh Face of the Dice), 1936 Source:

to our own unruly discourses, Surrealism’s language, images and ideas hold our attention still, strangely. (Caws, 2011: 16) Perhaps Hugnet’s striking contemporaneity is due to the fact that his book is a surprisingly good example of a printed work where each page looks like a screen print from a 21st-century computer (Figure 2.11). Like other Surrealists, Hugnet felt a whole new world of writing and reading coming. There was nothing illogical about his combining texts and images by cutting and pasting them, spreading and intersecting them. What seemed illogical about it was simply that the technology of the 1930s had not yet presented an easy means for him to do it. Science needed to catch up to art.

American Radicality: Federman, Sukenick, and Others In the 1960s a group of writers with particular interest in the Radical emerged from the American university system. Although they too admired European avant-garde writing, their backgrounds differed from those of the experimental American writers who preceded them. Whereas William S. Burroughs, Henry Miller and Gertrude Stein had come into contact with experimental movements in Europe by going to live there, the new group – which included John Barth, Robert Coover, Raymond Federman, William H. Gass and Ronald Sukenick – stayed at home (in Federman’s case it was his adopted home), led somewhat less bohemian lifestyles, worked day jobs in

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universities, and contributed to the spread of experimental writing in America by teaching, publishing and theorizing it. Raymond Federman was a key member of this group. He emigrated to America in 1947 when he was 19, published his PhD on Samuel Beckett in 1965, and taught comparative literature in French and English departments in California and New York. His pioneering collection of essays, Surfiction: Fiction Now and Tomorrow (1975), brought together voices of Radical writers from America and Europe: The authors … have been chosen because their work is recognized as having disrupted the tradition on which fiction has been functioning (for better or for worse) for too many centuries now. It is this dissatisfaction with fiction, this insufficiency, this crisis of fiction which bring many contemporary writers to reexamine, rethink, rewrite fiction in terms and in forms that have not yet been defined. (Federman, 1975: 1) Federman’s collection was clearly intended to transport the European radical agenda to North America. In addition to the US-based authors, he included significant European experimentalists: Jean-Francois Bory, Italo Calvino, Jean Ricardou and Philippe Sollers. But there was something even more significant going on: [O]f the eighteen contributors to this volume, eleven … are themselves fiction writers – some of national and international reputation. It is, therefore, from the inside, from the very experience of writing fiction (modern fiction) that a number of essays presented here are articulated. The other essays are from literary critics who have proven themselves careful readers and explicators of contemporary fiction. However, it is not a coincidence if some of the fiction writers expressing their views here are also the subject of some of the essays. The editor felt that by having within the pages of this volume a kind of intramural dialogue between those who write fiction and those who read fiction, that is to say by looking at contemporary fiction from the inside and from the outside, one could, perhaps, gain a more valid perception of what is happening to fiction today. (Federman, 1975: 2) The idea that writers could theorize their own radical practice – as opposed to accepting what academics and critics said about them – was one of the revolutionary ideas of Surfiction, and the fact that the American writers were themselves academic critics made the project credible.


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Two key themes to emerge from Federman’s collection concern the relationship of fiction to experience, and – as the understanding of that relationship changes – the consequent changes to the appearance of fiction on the page. In his Introduction, Federman says: [T]he very concept of syntax must be transformed – the word, the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter, the punctuation need to be rethought and rewritten so that new ways (multiple and simultaneous ways) of reading a book can be created. And the space itself in which writing takes place must be changed. That space, the page (and the book made of pages), must acquire new dimensions, new shapes, new relations in order to accommodate the new writing. And it is within this transformed topography of writing, from this new paginal (rather than grammatical) syntax that the reader will discover his freedom in relation to the process of reading a book, in relation to language and fiction. (Federman, 1975: 9–10) Federman indicates how far towards a concept of multimodal reading writers were thinking in the 1970s. The elements of the new writing, he says, will now occur simultaneously and offer multiple possibilities of rearrangement in the process of reading. The [fiction] discourse, no longer progressing from left to right, top to bottom, in a straight line, and along the design of an imposed plot, will follow the contours of the writing itself as it takes shape (unpredictable shape) within the space of the page. It will circle around itself, create new and unexpected movements and figures in the unfolding of the narration, repeating itself, projecting itself backward and forward along the curves of the writing – (much here can be learned from the cinema – that of Jean-Luc Godard in particular). (Federman, 1975: 11) These writers were reacting to technological change and the growing understanding, through familiarity with television and cinema screens, that readable texts were not solely found in printed formats: in the 1970s films were referred to as texts too, and music was a text. The idea of the readable was expanding. Artforms other than writing had not been conceived of as texts in this way before the 1970s. In his essay ‘The new tradition in fiction’, Ronald Sukenick quotes Anaïs Nin’s The Novel of the Future (1968) as part of his argument that the form of mainstream fiction in the 1970s was out of touch with the reality people were living (see the passage from Nin in Chapter 1). But Sukenick’s ‘new tradition’ in fiction was actually no new

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invention, it was rather a new recognition of ‘a network of interconnections’ (Sukenick, 1975: 37), a line traced back through Joyce, Sterne and Cervantes to Rabelais, to which he adds a list of contemporary practitioners – ‘Butor, Cortázar, Nabokov, Nin, Musil, Robbe-Grillet, Gertrude Stein, Gide, many others’ (Sukenick, 1975: 38). ‘One slogan that might be drawn from Sterne’s anti-art technique’, he says, ‘is that, instead of reproducing the form of previous fiction, the form of the novel should seek to approximate the shape of our experience’ (Sukenick, 1975: 40). Perhaps the fundamental assumption behind this line of fiction is that the act of composing a novel is basically not different from that of composing one’s reality, which brings me back to a slogan I draw from Robbe-Grillet’s criticism that the main didactic job of the contemporary novelist is to teach the reader how to invent his world. (Sukenick, 1975: 41) The split between world and fiction was at the heart of the new tradition’s concepts. Fiction did not have to pretend to be not a fake world inside a frame, it could enact and rehearse the real world. Fiction could bleed out into the world and have the world bleed back in (to use printers’ terminology where the ink on the page bleeds off beyond the margins). Fiction’s forms, and the reader’s engagement with them, could actively be part of the world: The ‘architectonic novel,’ as [Sharon Spencer called it in her 1971 book Space, Time and Structure in the Modern Novel] is characterized by the spatialization of its form. The spatialization of form serves as an alternative to the old novel’s sequential organization in plot and narrative. Through such techniques as juxtaposition and manipulation of the print on the space of the page, the novelist can create a structure which communicates by means of pattern rather than sequence in a manner approaching that of the plastic arts. This kind of writing … can be taken in with something like the simultaneous apprehension of someone looking at a box in a comic strip. … The sequential organizations of the old novel are coming to seem like an extravagant, if comforting, artifice – things don’t appear to happen according to Aristotle any more. (Sukenick, 1975: 38) In contemplating the possibilities of a new sort of writing and reading, the writer/theorists of the 1970s struggled towards a conception of the multimodal (as Kress would later describe it), without having any substantial examples of it to refer to. That all changed with the advent of the computer, hypertext and hypermedia.


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Sukenick went on to publish his own collection of essays in 1985, entitled In Form: Digressions on the Act of Fiction. He elaborated further on ideas in his ‘The new tradition’ essay from the Federman collection. ‘The form of the traditional novel is a metaphor for a society that no longer exists’, he said (Sukenick, 1985: 3) and writing, as an act, is simultaneously part of life and about it. This formulation immediately changes the position of fiction, which can then no longer be an imitation of life but becomes, rather, an illuminating addition to its ongoing flow. (Sukenick, 1985: 3) In In Form Sukenick focused on the metatextual or fictocritical – another way in which the fiction writer’s world blends with the world of the fiction: When consciousness of its own form is incorporated in the dynamic structure of the text – its composition, as the painters say – theory can once again become part of the story rather than about it. One of the tasks of modern fiction, therefore, is to displace, energize, and re-embody its criticism – to literally reunite it with our experience of the text. (Sukenick, 1985: 5) Sukenick spoke for many writers towards the end of the 20th century when he insisted that ‘the novel must continually reinvent itself to remain in touch with the texture of our lives’ and that ‘innovative fiction, when successful … is not “experimental” but represents the progressive struggle of art to rescue the truth of our experience’ (Sukenick, 1985: 242–243): Fiction is the most fluid and changing of literary forms, the one that most immediately reflects the changes in our collective consciousness, and in fact that is one of its great virtues. As soon as fiction gets frozen into one particular model, it loses that responsiveness to our immediate experience that is its hallmark. It becomes literary. It seems to me that this is one of the major factors contributing to the recent decline in the popularity of fiction: people no longer believe in the novel as a medium that gets at the truth of their lives. The form of fiction that comes down to us through Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Hemingway is no longer adequate to capture our experience. Either the novel will change, or it will die. Today’s money-making novels are those that sell to the movies – in other words, they are essentially written for another medium. No one takes novels seriously until they become movies, which is to say that no one takes novels seriously. (Sukenick, 1985: 241–242)

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Sukenick’s tone reflected how tired the experimental writers were getting in the late 20th century. As early as 1972 he had written: ‘Obviously there’s no progress in art. Progress toward what? The avant-garde is a convenient propaganda device but when it wins the war everything is avant-garde which leaves us just about where we were before’ (Sukenick, 1975: 35). And Federman had commented: ‘Fiction is called experimental out of despair’ (Federman, 1975: 7). By the mid-1980s, the hypertext and hypermedia revolutions were just around the corner; they would take writing much closer to ‘that union of sense and concept, matter and spirit, ego and world toward which our desire for wholeness of experience impels us and that occurs in a successfully embodied work of art’ (Sukenick, 1985: 42). The despair of the Radical project in the mid-1980s – the fact that a revolution had been going on for some 200 years without triumphant result – is summarized by Sukenick: The Underground, it seems, along with corollary notions such as the avant-garde and the experimental, is an idea whose time has passed. The concept of a cultural and intellectual style in resistance to the status quo, keeping a critical distance from the establishment, and sustaining an adversary power, has been slipping out of fashion ever since Andy Warhol let us know that success is really wonderful. Artists of all kinds now understand that despite the well-advertised virtues of the garret much can be said for large, glossy lofts. Diane Wakoski points out that knocking the middle class is a little dated, especially for writers who are basically middle class. Word has come in from the intellectuals that the long rebellion of the intelligentsia against society is now over. According to Irving Howe, the last battle of the Modern movement is its losing fight to remain unsuccessful in order to maintain an adversary position. (Sukenick, 1985: xiii) But the victory was just around the corner. Lance Olsen’s 1995 collection of essays Surfing Tomorrow: Essays on the Future of American Fiction was the successor to Federman and Sukenick’s books. It was significantly more up-beat than its predecessors because the hypertext era had already started. There were digital territories for novelists to explore and discover solutions to the problems posed by paper.

3 Radical Experiments 1: Words

Experiments with Words Writing is always about language, and it may be argued that each step in a sentence, each new word chosen from the lexicon of English (more than a million of them, according to the Global Language Monitor, 2013) can be an adventure, a step into the unknown. Any fiction writer knows the tentativeness and, often, agony of taking the step of the next word forward. This is particularly the case when the next word is an author-invented word. Memorable language experiments have occurred in fiction as part of the speech of certain groups or subcultures. Anthony Burgess’s nadsat language in A Clockwork Orange (1962) is a combination of English and Russian invented to suit a depicted youth culture of the near-future: ‘All right, Dim,’ I said. ‘Now for the other veshch, Bog help us all.’ So he did the strong-man on the devotchka, who was still creech creech creeching away in very horrorshow four-in-a-bar, locking her rookers from the back… (Burgess, 2013: 29) Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker (1980) is narrated in a language created to reflect post-apocalyptic degradation, when formal education has disappeared and the survivors are doing the best they can with what is left: On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs… (Hoban, 2012: 1) The most famous literary experiment with words in a work of fiction is James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939), a 628-page novel that ends mid-sentence and continues the same sentence at the beginning of the book. However, 68

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circular structure is not the only challenging aspect of this work. Having already conducted one of the most influential experiments with the novel form and narrative structure in Ulysses (1922), Joyce turned his attention to the structures and associations of language itself. Finnegans Wake – ostensibly the story of crises and humorous moments in the lives of the Dublin-based Earwicker family – is much more an account of relationships in language and culture. Here is an example from the novel’s early description of its setting, Dublin, and some of its population: We may see and hear nothing if we choose of the shortlegged bergins off Corkhill or the bergamoors of Arbourhill or the bergagambols of Summer Hil or the bergincellies of Miseryhill or the country-bossed bergones of Constitutionhill though every crowd has its several tones and every trade has its clever mechanics and each harmonical has a point of its own, Olaf’s on the rise and Ivor’s on the lift and Sitric’s place’s between them. But all they are all there scraping along to sneeze out a likelihood that will solve and salve life’s robulous rebus, hopping round his middle like kippers on a griddle, O, as he lays dormant from the macroborg of Holdhard to the microbirg of Pied de Poudre. Behove this sound of Irish sense. Really? Here English might be seen. Royally? One sovereign punned to petery pence. Regally? The silence speaks the scene. Fake! So This Is Dyoublong? Hush! Caution! Echoland! (Joyce, 1966a: 12–13) As with the rest of the novel, Joyce’s detailed play with language frees it from conventional spelling and grammar to allow multiple levels of association. The above passage combines information about geography, class, culture and politics in Dublin, using puns, words within words and clever allusions to sayings and songs, to produce a powerful sense of politics in the city with its many-layered power struggles and dissatisfactions. A shortcut to thinking about what Joyce achieved in Finnegans Wake is perhaps to say that he allowed a radical sense of poetry into the prose of fiction. He broke apart the formal structures of words and sentences and reassembled them, inserting new words and parts of words and parts of sentences into the interstices. It is a challenge to read all 628 pages of Finnegans Wake, a task possibly completed only by academics. (It is even rumoured that only six people have ever read it all the way through in one sitting – and each of them promptly died after completing the feat.) Nevertheless, Finnegans Wake has created its own lively industry of critique and exegesis, with academic journals and websites devoted to


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attempts at understanding it in part and fully. Clearly it is a monumental experiment. Perhaps the second most remarkable fiction experiment with words is French author Georges Perec’s La disparition (1969), translated into English by Gilbert Adair under the title A Void (1995) – a 283-page novel which never uses the letter ‘e’. Before asking ‘Why would a writer need to do such a thing?’ we must note that Perec was a member of the France-based Oulipo group (in French the OUvroir de LIttérature POtentielle, or Workshop of Potential Literature). Oulipo writers take mathematical approaches to writing based on innovative constraints, combinative procedures and playfulness. The group works collaboratively to invent procedures for making poetry and prose, and their ideas have extended into the visual arts, comic strips, photography, architecture, music, drama, history and cuisine. The aim of Oulipians is not to create original works, but to create the formulae for them so that others may create Oulipian work too. The list of signed-up Oulipians includes Italo Calvino, Marcel Duchamp, Harry Mathews, Georges Perec and Raymond Queneau. Regarding their attitudes to language, Perec and Joyce might be placed at opposite ends of the minimalist-maximalist experiment spectrum. Perec sought to tie language down, to test how it performed under stress, to make it a tighter, edgier instrument, and to test his own skills under pressure at the same time. Joyce sought the opposite, to liberate language and find out how far it could fly and sing, and how much it could carry; he gave it – and his own prodigious powers of association – free rein. Both writers tell us much about language and the describable world that we didn’t know before they wrote.

Constraints on words The Oulipo website ( lists 134 official Oulipian constraints. Three examples are: the snowball (where the first line has one letter, the second line two letters, the third line three letters, etc.); the N + 7 (S + 7 in French) where every noun in an existent work is replaced by the seventh noun following it in a specified dictionary; and the lipogram (a text that excludes one or more letters of the alphabet). The snowball procedure produces a sentence poem such as Harry Mathews’ I am the text which

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begins sparely, assuming magnitude constantly, perceptibly proportional, incorporating unquestionable incrementations. (Mathews & Brotchie, 2011: 228) A variation on this, the melting snowball, reverses the direction of incrementation. An expanding snowball followed by a melting snowball is a diamond snowball. A sequence of snowballs is an avalanche. The N + 7 formula produces a text such as the following, based on the first chapter of the Book of Genesis and using The Living Language Common Usage Dictionary: English–Russian (1959): In the bend God created the hen and the education. And the education was without founder, and void; and death was upon the falsehood of the demand. And the sport of God moved upon the falsehood of the wealth. And God said, Let there be limit; and there was limit. (Mathews & Brotchie, 2011: 202) Perec’s A Void is probably the best-known constrained (or lipogram) work. His legendary achievement, of completing a novel without using the letter ‘e’, is however more noteworthy than the novel itself. A Void is a playfully convoluted detective story which has as its main object to finally reveal to the reader that they have ploughed through 283 pages and not seen a single ‘e’; but, of course, this cannot be fully explained because the letter ‘e’ cannot be used. Perhaps only the first reader ever to read La disparition in manuscript form was mystified or surprised. Nowadays one reads the novel already knowing (from the cover blurb) what the mystery is. But Perec challenges the way we read the detective novel genre, and other fiction, in order to find a solution for a greater point: … a final point was obligatory in a story such as ours… [b]ut an illusion was always working in such solutions, an illusion of wisdom, wisdom to which not any of us could truly lay claim, not our protagonists, not our author… (Perec, 1995: 277)


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(Did you notice the lack of ‘e’?) The linear narrative conventionally leads to a revelatory conclusion, but nothing else in life does. Fiction models unrealistic closures, rehearses the hoax that things in conflict will be resolved. Perec’s novel is damning and profound in its attack on the cultural significance of narrative structure. For the author himself there were satisfactions in the process. In an exegetical postscript (which also avoids ‘e’), Perec explains: Initially I found such a constraint [i.e. not using ‘e’] faintly amusing, if that; but I stuck to my guns. At which point, finding that it took my imagination down so many intriguing linguistic highways and byways, I couldn’t stop … a rich, fruitful narration, honing my writing skills in unthought-of ways. (Perec, 1995: 282) Perec balanced out his Oulipian obsession with the letter ‘e’ by publishing a novella, Les revenentes (1972) (translated as The Exeter Text: Jewels, Secrets, Sex, 1996) in which all vowels other than ‘e’ were outlawed. The ‘e’ had its day at last among Perec’s amusing experiments. Jacques Roubaud, Oulipian poet and novelist, described the writer who chooses a constraining process as ‘a rat who himself builds the maze from which he sets out to escape’ (Roubaud, quoted in Mathews & Brotchie, 2011: 41). For those familiar with laboratory experiments in psychology research (and possibly also with William Kotzwinkle’s novel, Doctor Rat, where the rat’s point of view is taken into account) this definition has a particular resonance: the maze is built for the rat by the oppressive researcher; the rat runs and learns or fails the maze for the benefit of humans and advancing their knowledge. Sometimes the rat dies for the sake of human knowledge. Roubaud focused on the fact that Oulipians mounted self-constraining projects in order to find out more about language and the forms in which it was artistically used, in the process sacrificing large readership aspirations. Matthews and Brotchie’s revised and updated Oulipo Compendium (2005) gives a detailed account of many 20th-century word-constrained works inspired by Oulipo principles. These experiments have led in the 21st century to two beautifully executed examples: Christian Bök’s Eunoia (2001), a novella with alphabet letter rules, and Padgett Powell’s The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? (2009), a novel ruled by the question mark. Although these are 21st-century publications, they are securely based in the 20th-century Oulipian ethos. Bök’s 70-page novella has five chapters, each using only one vowel – Chapter A, Chapter E, Chapter I, etc. Alongside its main constraint, each chapter is divided into paragraphs, one per page, with each paragraph (or scene) fitting a 12-line left- and right-justified layout. As Bök notes,

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Eunoia abides by many subsidiary rules. All chapters must allude to the art of writing. All chapters must describe a culinary banquet, a prurient debauch, a pastoral tableau and a nautical voyage. All sentences must accent internal rhyme through the use of syntactical parallelism. The text must exhaust the lexicon for each vowel, citing at least 98% of the available repertoire (although a few words go unused, despite efforts to include them: parallax, belvedere, gingivitis, monochord and tumulus). The text must minimize repetition of substantive vocabulary (so that, ideally, no word appears more than once). The letter Y is suppressed. (Bök, 2001: 103–104) There are some wonderful scenes. Here is an example from Chapter E: Westerners revere the Greek legends. Versemen retell the represented events, the resplendent scenes, where hellbent, the Greek freemen seek revenge whenever Helen, the new-wed empress, weeps. Restless, she deserts her fleece bed where, detested, her wedded regent sleeps. When she remembers Greece, her seceded demesne, she feels wretched, left here, bereft, her needs never met. She needs rest; nevertheless, her demented fevers render her sleepless (her sleeplessness enfeebles her). She needs help; nevertheless, her stressed nerves render her cheerless (her cheerlessness enfetters her). (Bök, 2001: 33) Bök explains the work by saying: ‘The text makes a Sisyphean spectacle of its labour, willfully crippling its language in order to show that, even under such improbable conditions of duress, language can still express an uncanny, if not sublime, thought’ (Bök, 2001: 103). In a strange but logical way, prose put under constraint can produce something more like poetry. Padgett Powell’s The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? is constrained by the rule that every sentence is a question. Are bland-food eaters to be trusted more or less that sophisticated eaters? Is it correct to suggest the eater of bland food is unsophisticated compared with the eater of spicy food? Are you aware that the European rock dove, commonly called a pigeon, represents one of the most successful global invasions in the history of animal adaptations? Do you think the incidence of human homosexuality is higher than 10 percent? Do you like to listen to weather broadcasts or do you just like to see, in uncoached


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anticipation, weather happen? Will you be saddened that your life has been minor if in fact it has been minor? Is there anything you might do today that would distinguish you from being just a vessel of consumption and pollution with a proper presence in the herd? … Have you ever heard the saying, Life is a sandwich of activity between two periods of bed-wetting? (Powell, 2009: 27–28) To read a 164-page novel made entirely of questions might sound like a tedious enterprise, but Powell’s writing engages us throughout. It does for reading the same thing Buñuel and Dalí’s film Un Chien Andalou did: it exposes and anatomizes what happens to us when we read. It makes us see that when we read we think we are being told things, but in fact we are being constantly questioned: we are being asked to make scenes, to create characters, to put the argument or narrative logic together in ways our minds compose as satisfactory answers (as we make the text in a Barthesian way). The process of writing always involves the writer asking questions of the reader. What scene will you, Dear Reader, make out of this description by combining the scene-painting elements put in front of you? What character will you make by assembling the personality traits, psychology and actions provided? What sense will you make of this argument or narrative by arranging the statements or scenes proposed?

Constraints on the source of words As a development from the original cut-and-paste techniques of the Dadaists and Surrealists, the Oulipians have a subset of word-constraint strategies which they call combinative procedures: ‘several book-length works by Oulipians are grounded in combinatorics: Raymond Queneau’s 100,000,000,000,000 Poems, Jacques Roubaud’s , Georges Perec’s Life A User’s Manual, Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, Harry Mathews’s Cigarettes’ (Mathews & Brotchie, 2011: 130). A particular case in combinatorial writing involves the limitation of using only ‘found’ words or words already published. ‘Stop, no u-turn, yield, go!’ is a sentence made from words found on traffic signs. In this vein, Walter Abish’s story collection 99: The New Meaning (1990) uses, in its title story, as he says, ‘… no less than 99 segments by as many authors, each line, sentence or paragraph appropriated from a page bearing that same, to me, mystically significant number 99’ (Abish, 1990: 9). At the same time, his story ‘What Else’ is ‘obtained from 50 self-portraits, journals, diaries, and collected letters’ of writers such as Flaubert and Kafka (Abish, 1990: 9). Abish acknowledges that his works are not actually ‘written’ but ‘orchestrated’, and ‘were undertaken in a playful

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spirit’. He says: ‘I wanted to probe certain familiar emotional configurations afresh, and arrive at an emotional content that is not mine by design’ (Abish, 1990: 9). Abish’s technique uses Tristran Tzara’s cut-and-paste recipe almost to the letter, although while he finds the paragraphs in a semi-random fashion by consulting page 99 of each original publication, he does not undertake the rearrangement of the found elements randomly: his stories are careful assemblages of the found elements. This procedure dates back to the old tradition of Cento – the patchwork or mosaic writing practised in the 3rd and 4th centuries by the Latin writers Geta and Ausonius, and others following them. Abish does not include a list of the authors from whom he appropriated the ready-made material (as was the tradition with Cento); and, according to copyright laws (where 10% of borrowing from a work is allowable) he does not have to. Here is an excerpt from 99: The New Meaning. The numbers introducing each paragraph may be distracting: they refer to the number of words being borrowed, but also they give a sense that, while a new arrangement is being made, there is the possibility of many others: 15 The longing began in his speechless genitals, for which his brain cells acted as interpreter. 16 Who is it then? No one, she said. I just don’t know why I am alive. 13 Things aren’t so jolly easy, said Philip, more to himself than to her. 10 I don’t know. Yes I do. I’m scared to move. 51 This agreeable young woman, with her pleasant sexual dreams, had been reborn within the breaking contours of her crushed sports car. … (Abish, 1990: 95–96) The point of Abish’s experiment is that the words in the originals had meanings, and in this new arrangement they have new meanings. It is a simple observation, but profound. Writers write words with intended meanings,


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but these meanings don’t stick to the words, as Barthes reiterated. In Abish’s fiction the names of the characters keep changing, but it doesn’t matter. Narrative tone, stance and diction change, but we (the sensitive readers) don’t care. The unreadable (as Abish’s work has been called) becomes excitingly readable when we stop reading for superficial linear through-lines (based on character names, setting consistency, tonal unification) and concentrate on the ideas. I have read 99: The New Meaning repeatedly, and on my first several readings was put off by it. Then I read it without the expectation that it should conform to the way I have read fiction previously. Allowing its self-defined pathways to reveal themselves, I found that by following the ideas – the sequences of thought, emotions and psychological perspectives revealed by the characters in each section – I made a seamless and very satisfying reading. Abish revealed that all those conventions – such as: characters should not change their names; back-stories should not alter; diction and manner of thinking should remain consistent to character; plot should be linear – do not matter. In fact, the reader’s reading can override such inconsistencies so long as there are other structural shapes and (even labyrinthine) pathways to latch onto and move forward by. Tone and music are the consistencies Abish insists on. The reader does not read the originals in 99: The New Meaning, s/he reads tone and atmosphere taken from the originals. In the 1950s Brion Gysin – a painter, writer, sound-text artist, one-time restaurateur and expelled Surrealist – linked up with Beat generation writers in Europe and experimented with his own cut-up method employing newspaper source words. His 1959 collages utilizing the Paris Herald Tribune, the London Observer, the London Daily Mail, and Life magazine advertisements produced stories which disconcertingly, and beautifully, combined the sensations of fiction and journalism: It is impossible to estimate the damage. Anything put out up to now is like pulling a figure out of the air. Six distinguished British women said to us later, indicating the crowd of chic young women who were fingering samples, “If our prices weren’t as good or better, they wouldn’t come. Eve is eternal.” (I’m going back to the Sheraton Carlton and call the Milwaukee Braves.) Miss Hannah Pugh the slim model – a member of the Diners’ Club, the American Express Credit Cards, etc. – drew from a piggy bank a talent which is the very quintessence of the British Female sex.

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“People aren’t crazy,” she said. “Now that Hazard has banished my timidity I feel that I, too, can live on streams in the area where people are urged to be watchful.” A huge wave rolled in from the wake of Hurricane Gracie and bowled a married couple off a jetty. The wife’s body was found – the husband was missing, presumed drowned. Tomorrow the moon will be 228,400 miles from the earth and the sun almost 93,000,000 miles away. (Gysin, 2001: 70) Although this story is more than half a century old, it has a current feel to it. The sense of obsession with the things that don’t matter, and vulnerability towards the things that do, works as well in the 2010s as it did in the 1950s. Gysin’s editing together of his found fragments is sensitive to the rhythms of poetry, music and the visual image, as well as to marvellous juxtapositions in meaning. A notable work of the 21st century made from words not the writer’s own is Graham Rawle’s Woman’s World (2008 [2005]), but this time not just the words are appropriated, so too are their original printed text. This 437-page, tour de force novel was assembled from 40,000 fragments, snipped from around 1000 women’s magazines from the early 1960s. It took five years to get the 80,000 words into place (Rawle, 2005). An excerpt is given in Figure 3.1. Rawle has given a detailed account of his process: Getting the pieces to say what I intended required much fiddling, but I liked the strange, fragmented writing style that emerged. In my first experiments for […] Woman’s World, I allowed the found text to determine the direction of the narrative, but the writing veered quickly out of control. To tell a properly structured story, I realised I would need to put the collage method to one side and write my book in the conventional way, as a word-processed document. As the story began to take shape, the reason for using collage and for using early 1960s women’s magazines in particular, became clear to the plot. Woman’s World tells the story of Norma Fontaine who relies on the words from the magazines to find her female voice and to shape her feminine persona. (Norma is in fact a young man called Roy.) By adopting the magazines’ vocabulary, the peppy wisdom and underlying moral tone of the original material permeates ‘her’ outlook. I collected over a million words of source material from the magazines. These cuttings were then transcribed, categorized and filed, and from


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Figure 3.1 Graham Rawle, Woman’s World: A Novel, 2005 Source: The Publishing Lab website:

them, I began to reassemble my story. Little by little, my original words were discarded and replaced by those I’d found. Though occasionally I’d find a sentence that more or less worked, most of the time I had to make do with the less suitable words and phrases at my disposal. ‘He wore a blank expression’ became ‘His face was a tablecloth of plain and simple design’. A more elaborate sentence might require six or eight separate pieces. ‘The recent display of emotion had given an apricot flush to her Milk of Magnesia complexion, and her welcoming mouth was as red and perfect as a carpet rolled out for a royal command performance.’ (Rawle, 2005) Rawle is being somewhat disingenuous when he calls the scissored fragments of words at his disposal ‘less suitable’. In fact, what he created in the process of orchestrating the bits from his trays of clipped text were surprising and apt images. Possibly his imagination would never have come up with an invention as hard-boiled as ‘her welcoming mouth was as red and perfect as a carpet rolled out for a royal command performance’, but his imagination in conjunction with a very different language selection

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strategy, a sidestep to the normal composition process, found the source material and way forward to do it.

Constraints on style Also part of the subset of word-constraint strategies involving combinative procedures are texts with constraints on style. Rawle suggests that a key aspect of using words from particular old magazines gave Woman’s World the feel of the era, or the style he wanted to portray. Vocabulary or word choice, specific sequences of those words, and distinctive rhythms created in those sequences, define the style of prose. A word-constraint experiment involving pastiche makes the language in a fiction conform with a particular style to refer to the distinctive voice of a particular author, genre or era. This can produce satirical writing with a social or moral purpose, writing which investigates language use, or it can simply be entertaining. Examples of pastiche in fiction abound, from Henry Fielding’s Shamela (1741), an attack on the conservative social values represented in Samuel Richardson’s epistolary novel Pamela (1740), to David Lodge’s The British Museum Is Falling Down (1965) where the styles of various 20th-century writers are parodied, including Conrad, Greene, Hemingway, Joyce, Kafka, Lawrence and Woolf. Often the aim of parody is to score points off the original author and to present their text in a negative light, emphasizing its shallowness, affectation, datedness, etc. Some texts, however, are truly experimental in their investigation of the possibilities when one style is superimposed over another. The classic 20th-century example is Raymond Queneau’s Exercises de style (1947) (Exercises in Style, 1948). Queneau takes a micro-story about a man on a bus observed by a male narrator and tells it 99 times, each employing a different narrative device (a rhetorical figure, a parody of a genre, a viewpoint, a mood, etc.), producing 99 different styles. The device used provides the title of each story. The first, ‘Notation’, is the clearest, most direct default telling of the story: On the S bus, in the rush hour. A chap of about twenty-six, soft hat with a cord instead of a ribbon, neck too long, as if someone’s been tugging at it. People getting off. The chap in question gets annoyed with one of the men standing next to him. He accuses him of jostling him every time anyone goes past. A snivelling tone which is meant to be aggressive. When he sees a vacant seat he throws himself onto it. Two hours later, I come across him in the Cour de Rome, in front of the Gare Saint-Lazare. He’s with a friend who’s saying: ‘You ought to get an


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extra button put on your overcoat.’ He shows him where (at the lapels) and why. (Queneau, 2009: 3) Of the 98 other stories to choose from (e.g. ‘Past’, ‘Present’, ‘Reported Speech’, ‘Passive’, ‘Official Letter’, ‘Blurb’, ‘Olfactory’, ‘Gustatory’, ‘Spoonerisms’, ‘Mathematical’) here are just two: Retrograde You ought to put another button on your overcoat, his friend told him. I came across him in the middle of the Cour de Rome, after having left him rushing avidly towards a seat. He had just protested against being pushed by another passenger who, he said, was jostling him every time anyone got off. This scraggy young man was wearing a ridiculous hat. This took place on the platform of an S bus which was full at noon that day. (Queneau, 2009: 7) Interjections Psst! H’m! Ah! Oh! Hem! Ah! Ha! Hey! Well! Oh! Pooh! Poof! Ow! Oo! Ouch! Hey! Eh! H’m! Pffft! Well! Hey! Pooh! Oh! H’m! Right! (Queneau, 2009: 116) Exercises in Style is popular on creative writing course reading lists, for obvious reasons. However, it is not just the abundance of examples that makes this work special. The work offers insights into how we read both the words and a visualization of the situation, and how this changes spatially (the perspective/s we take, the frame/s we provide) and qualitatively (what colours, slants, tones, sounds, textures our imagination paints the scene in) as the words change. Also, the exercises work cumulatively to pose questions about the nature of reading. We talk nowadays about there being as many readings as there are readers, but what do we understand by this? How different are these different readers’ readings? What is it that they read? Do they read the words or the situation? Or both? What do they carry with them from one segment, one visualization, to another? It is important for writers to know about such things because we write into the colosseum of these multiple readings, we perform with so many possibilities in play. Umberto Eco says of Queneau’s work: I read somewhere that the idea of the Exercises came to Queneau when he was listening to symphonic variations… As Roman Jakobson has

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shown, a musical variation is a syntactic phenomenon which – within the context of its companion text – creates expectations and predictions, memories and deferments – and precisely by so doing produces an effect of meaning. Whatever the case, Queneau has chosen not only to vary the musical theme grammatically, but also the way we listen. We can listen to a musical piece while blocking our ears rhythmically in such a way that the sounds are filtered and become a sort of breathing, an ordered noise, a cacophony controlled by a rule. But to get the most out of this experiment we need to know that the symphony is still going on in its uninterrupted wholeness, and it works even better if we’ve already listened to it before somewhere else. Therefore each exercise takes on meaning only in the context of the others – ‘meaning’ – and therefore content – being the operative word. However amusing the metaplastic wordplay and its mechanical shifts of letters and phonemes can be, it is not merely that which is involved. (Eco, in Queneau, 2009: xii–xiii) Eco interestingly works into the exercises with reference to how sound and music affect us in creating a narrative. One could also use a visual medium such as film to describe different narrative effects. (When I read the Exercises, for example, I am constantly changing the camera angle, changing the type of camera, the type of film, the way the actors work, etc.). Predictably, the 21st century responded to Queneau’s stories in another artform – the graphic. Cartoonist Matt Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style (2005) uses a pictorial default story different from Queneau’s original, but shows just as effectively that the textual variations possible when one has a million words at one’s disposal are available in the multiple ways one can draw a comic strip. Derek Pell’s X-Texts (1994) is a collection of 31 erotic – or anti-erotic – micro-stories in the styles of Vatsyayana, the Marquis de Sade, John Cleland, D.H. Lawrence, Anaïs Nin, etc. Each story brings two contrasting styles together, or makes a satirical insertion into an original, to create a literary detumescence. For example, ‘Sexlus: A Neutered text, after Henry Miller’: I said it had a marvellous physique. It was full and supple, limber, smooth as a seal. When I ran my hands over its lower portion it was enough to make me forget all my problems – even Nietzsche. As for its thing, if it wasn’t exactly beautiful, it was attractive and arresting. Perhaps its thing was a trifle worn-out, but it suited its personality. Of course there was


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nothing more to it than what you could see or touch. Its personality was as much in its left thing, so to speak, as in its little right thing. It was not perfect – not by a long shot – but it was provocative. It had no need to flaunt it or fling it about. In fact, one could say it was quite content … happy just being it. (Pell, 1994: 105) The educative effect of Pell’s piece overwhelms the erotics associated with Miller’s originals. Pell’s playful experiment demonstrates: how sensuality is already built into language; how visuality is contained in cadence; how erotic suggestion does not depend on A-list dirty words, but resides in musical nuancing and diction structures which are inescapable. By using Miller’s style on an innocuous or unidentifiable subject, Pell creates in the reader nevertheless a Miller-style reaction. In the 21st century, a delightful example of style constraint is Mark Crick’s Household Tips of the Great Writers trilogy (2005–2011), where deliciously ironic and insightful effects are produced. The trilogy comprises the cookbook Kafka’s Soup (2005), the do-it-yourself book Sartre’s Sink (2008) and the garden tips book Machiavelli’s Lawn (2011). In each of these works, literary writers’ styles are puréed, plumbed and pruned into unfamiliar literary contexts. The recipe for Lamb with Dill Sauce in the style of Raymond Chandler begins: I sipped my whisky sour, ground out my cigarette on the chopping board and watched a bug trying to crawl out of the basin. I needed a table at Maxim’s, a hundred bucks and a gorgeous blonde; what I had was a leg of lamb and no clues. I took hold of the joint. It felt cold and damp, like a coroner’s handshake. I took out a knife and cut the lamb into pieces. Feeling the blade in my hand I sliced an onion, and before I knew what I was doing a carrot lay in pieces on the slab. None of them moved… (Crick, 2011: 3–4) Or, with a very different taste, Moules Marinière à la Italo Calvino: I write this recipe without knowledge of when or where it will find an audience, but now, reader, you are here. What form this account takes I cannot say; perhaps you have found a manuscript in the attic of your new home and your curiosity has been aroused, or perhaps the recipe has found its way into print in a periodical or even in the hard shell and respectability of a book. You may already have searched the pages for an indication as to its author, who, perhaps, has already tasted the recipe for the last time, while you, reader, approach it for the first. Mercifully, recipes are not perishable in the same way as food or writers, although if

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Aristophanes wrote recipes, they have not kept as well as his plays… (Crick, 2011: 76–77) And so on. And who better to give advice on Putting up a Garden Fence than Hunter S. Thompson: To my mind the corvette convertible is the only vehicle that can carry a ten-foot length of timber in style, but when it comes to making a handbrake turn or high-speed manoeuvres in excess of a hundred miles per hour, it begins to show its limitations as a serious hauler of lumber. By the time we arrived back at the house the car looked like it had been involved in a high-speed collision with Uncle Tom’s cabin. As I lowered the volume on Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ and extricated myself from the woodpile I could hear the voice of my attorney somewhere in the thicket of timbers that had sprouted in the seat next to me: ‘Man, this is no way to travel.’ What remained of the ten ten-foot arris rails, five ten-foot gravel boards, eighty four-foot featheredge boards and six eight-foot four-inch by four-inch sawn posts we’d stacked so neatly in the bucket seat was now piled against the windshield. In the trunk six bags of post mix (a lethal concoction of ready-mixed hardcore, sand and cement), twenty brackets and six pounds of nails made the car’s nose point skyward so that it looked like a giant red porcupine trying to climb up onto the sidewalk. It was important to keep my attorney’s spirits up while I assessed his chances of survival. ‘Sweet Jesus, don’t you just love the smell of fresh-cut timber in the morning?’ I asked. ‘Can you move your legs?’. … (Crick, 2011: 164) Crick’s investigations of language’s adaptability show how style and genre work. By retaining the vocabulary, tone and phraseology of the original prose, but changing the setting, Crick foregrounds the qualities of idiosyncratic authorial styles. Inevitably the superimposition of a style on a contrasting narrative situation creates irony, which Crick exploits to the full in entertaining us. Experiments with words in fiction have always been about the writer’s understanding of language, which is ultimately about the effect of words on readers. The paradox is that to understand language one needs to liberate it and to tie it down, both. It’s as if language needs taking to the interrogation room and treating severely, to get it to confess, to make it say things it would not otherwise admit to, to provoke it to tell the truth about itself. As we know, in a moral world, once the culprit has confessed, once the truth is out, everyone knows more about the situation, feels better, can move on – even the culprit. In these experiments with words, language confesses that it can do much more. But it protests that it has not been asked to do such things before, and


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also, if it had been asked, it would have proven capable. It has always been there to do more than was asked of it. There are many more questions to ask of language – writers will continue to devise them – which means that writing must continue its agenda of word experiments in order to find out just what these amazing tools, words, can do in representing our worlds to us.

Constraints on the number of words Discussions continue about nominating word lengths for fiction forms. How long or short is a novel, a novella, a novelette, a short story, a shortshort story, etc.? The shortest end of the field interested 20th-century experimenters with radically short new forms emerging – sudden fiction, flash fiction, micro fiction. According to legend, Ernest Hemingway started the experiment with a bet that he could write a story in six words. The outcome was: ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’. The 1980s saw two important collections of very short fiction edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas. Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short stories (1983) gathered the shortest pieces by a panoply of US writers including Barthelme, Coover, Paley and Updike; Sudden Fiction International: Sixty ShortShort Stories (1989) collected works by Atwood, Borges, Cortázar, Calvino, Dinesen, Kawabata and many others. In his introduction to the international collection, Charles Baxter summed up the case for attempting the challenges of the tiny story: … in the tradition of Western literature we have come to believe that, at least with the novel, length is synonymous with profundity (this is a confusion of the horizontal with the vertical, please notice) and that most great literature must be large. But what if length, great length, is a convention not always necessary to the materials but dictated by an author’s taste or will, a convention that runs parallel to expansionism, empire-building, and the contemplation of the heroic individual? What if length is a feature of writing that is as artificial as an individual prose style? Perhaps length has something to do with the relation between author and reader, then; length might be a kind of pact, an agreement between reader and writer, to do something for a long time, like living within a marriage. Or it may simply be evidence of the writer’s interest in domination. (Baxter, 1989: 18) Put in this way, the short-short story was seen as a rebellion against many conventions in culture and publishing. The focus on ‘brief, reticent, meticulous stories’ (Baxter, 1989: 19) demonstrated that the limits of writing and

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reading had not been reached. As Joe David Bellamy wrote in an afterword to the American collection: Compression and concision have always been part of the aesthetic of the American short story form. Some writers, perhaps spurred on by the information overload of our time, began to experiment with just how far these values could be pushed without losing the minimal weight needed for a memorable dramatic statement. Though readers may have shorter attention spans than previously, they are also well-equipped to process information quickly; and many have responded enthusiastically to these compressed, tightly wound new forms. (Bellamy, 1986: 238) The short-short story caught on in the 1980s and 1990s, fuelled by a popular annual competition for a maximum one-page or 250-word piece: the World’s Best Short-Short Story competition run by Jerome Stern and Sundog: The Southeast Review magazine. Initially the prize comprised $100, publication in Sundog, and a crate of oranges. In the 21st century, the discussion about categorizing the length of a piece at the micro level has emerged. It seems that the term flash fiction applies to a maximum 750-word story (as laid down by Thomas, 1992: 12); the term short-short fiction applies to a maximum 500-word piece (as defined by the successor to the Sundog competition, ‘Contests’, 2016); the term 101 fiction applies to a story which is ‘101 words long, consisting of a one word title and one hundred word story’ (101 Fiction, 2014); and the term pulp fiction applies to a story ‘of only 25 words; no more, no less [with] the title one word only’ as defined by Literary Juice online magazine (Literary Juice, 2014). Thankfully, however, we have the simple-to-understand, less-than-haiku-length category of the six word story celebrated on a number of websites. Here are some examples to rival Hemingway: Longed for him. Got him. Shit. – Margaret Atwood (Atwood, 2006) I loved only you. At first. – Hadley Franklin (Franklin, 2013) The idea of fitting a novel to the length of a very short story was investigated regularly by Jorge Luis Borges. In the prologue to Fictions (1962 [1956]), Borges says: The composition of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance. To go on for five hundred pages developing an idea whose perfect


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oral exposition is possible in a few minutes! A better course of procedure is to pretend that these books already exist, and then to offer a résumé, a commentary…. (Borges, 1975: 13) An example of offering the résumé rather than the vast novel is ‘The Intruder’ (Borges, 1969: 15–17). The two-and-a-half-page narrative encompasses the monumental story of two brothers who fall in love with one woman, decide to share her in an unconventional marriage, find that it doesn’t work, decide to sell her into prostitution far away, find that doesn’t work either, bring her back to continue as before, finally find it still doesn’t work and together dispose of her. Reading his beautifully crafted synopsis, one nevertheless receives the sense of large worlds, convulsive events and tortured psychologies. It is said that Borges’ blindness prevented him from completing a novel. Instead, he borrowed from the genre of the marketing department’s seductive back cover blurb to create memorable condensed fictions. In the 21st century, under the influence of social media, teenagers Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin produced Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter (2009), where the classics were done in 20 tweets or less. It became an instant classic itself. But the idea was taken to a greater extreme in Twitter Lit, where great novels were distilled into 140-character single tweets. Here is a widely repeated example: ‘James Joyce, Ulysses: Man walks around Dublin. We follow every minute detail of his day. He’s probably overtweeting’ (quoted in JA, 2009). The quintessential mechanics of literary structure and the adaptive possibilities of language are investigated in these radically short forms. As with lifting the back of a watch, they show us some of the inner workings of narrative and how its smallest parts mesh. Looking back from the 21st century we can see that experimentation with words undertaken by radical writers was a project about destabilizing linguistic and narrative conventions, shaking them up and letting them fall in newly meaningful ways. Breaking through the rigidity of alphabetic text and accepted narrative forms were the first steps in showing that literary language could do more in new arrangements which better reflected the fast-changing times.


Radical Experiments 2: The Page, the Book

Experiments with the Page The page announcing itself A writer calling attention to the page is like a dramatist pointing out the stage or an artist highlighting the canvas: suspension of disbelief is broken; the convention in the arts of ignoring the vehicle which carries the artwork is shattered. Unconventional writers (and dramatists and artists) in the 20th century often enjoyed the frisson of breaking the spell under which reading/ viewing took place: it made their writing iconoclastic. By foregrounding the page, writers attacked/questioned/investigated venerated literary institutions in radical ways that disrupted old myths about what reading entailed, especially its ways of representing reality. But also, as William H. Gass pointed out, foregrounding the page called attention to ‘another kind of muse, the material character of the book itself’ (Gass, 2008). In saying this, Gass refused to put a negative spin on the concept that the page might come into view rather than remain invisible. He saw the space of the page to be also like the space of the theatre stage or the canvas – a multimodal site where more drama, movement and spectacle could be portrayed than was possible with text alone. The breaking of the spell of suspension of disbelief is the cardinal sin in the conventional monomodal way of reading. This has been true of the arts post-Caxton in the Age of Printing, when text parted company with the visual. Monomodal reading is deeply invested in the concept that ink, typeface, words and page must disappear. (Similarly, monomodal viewing in the visual arts depends on paint, brushstrokes, canvas, pixels and screen disappearing too.) But for multimodal reading, the case is different. The page or 87


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screen is the admitted ground where the meeting of input modes occurs, where negotiation of meaning takes place. The key to reading multimodally is being able to nuance the greater skill of suspending disbelief in several modes (textual, visual, musical, for example) while also acknowledging that the page or screen is the field which must be constantly surveilled (see, for example, Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006: 175ff). In The Self-Reflexive Page (2010), Louis Lüthi has collected 120 radical pages from novels dating back to Tristram Shandy. Of Sterne’s work Lüthi says: Tristram Shandy marks what could be archly called the ‘invention’ of the page – the page not as the recto or verso of one of the leaves of paper that when bound together make up a book, but as a determined space at a specific point in a narrative. (Lüthi, 2010: 132) Beginning with Sterne’s famous black page, Lüthi traces black pages, blank pages, drawing pages, photography pages, text pages, number pages and punctuation pages in the experimental works of writers including Barth, Beckett, Carroll, Cortázar, Foer, Gass, and many others. Lüthi observes that ‘an effective self-reflexive page … reveals the page to be a canvas and, to paraphrase James Wood, the fiction to be a true lie’ (Lüthi, 2010: 133). In monomodal writing, foregrounding the page foregrounds the fictionality of the fiction; keeping the page invisible abets the illusion that what one is reading is ‘real’. But beyond ‘postmodern self-reflexivity’, where the reader of fiction is expected to be reminded that s/he is reading fiction, Lüthi sees another characteristic: ‘the desire to react, or rather simply to act, in accordance with the superabundance of visual information around us’ (Lüthi, 2010: 152). In works by W.G. Sebald (The Rings of Saturn, 1995 and Austerlitz, 2001) and Reif Larsen (The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, 2009), Lüthi finds ‘a wonderfully integrated multimedia approach’ which ‘probably owes as much to advances in desktop technology than anything else’ (Lüthi, 2010: 154, his italics). In this multimedia approach the foregrounding of the page does not necessarily disrupt the fiction: it acts as the screen-ground where the diverse narrative elements are blended into a richer fiction. An example Lüthi includes is a double-page spread from William H. Gass’s pioneering novella Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife (1968). This work explores the fiction narrative page in terms of possibilities that became available to it with mid-20th century photocomposition technologies, and can be truly called a precursor to hypermedia. Gass used the page as a site for multimodal interactions between text, fonts, graphics and photography (Figure 4.1). He saw the material character of the book as full of

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Figure 4.1 William H. Gass, Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife, 1968 Source: Gass (1998: n.p.).

potential – ‘another kind of muse’ – because it is a staging point in negotiations between writer and reader in dealing with another kind of book. Each page and double-page spread in Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife involves masterful nuancing of typographical variety, dynamic orchestration of space, image and text, deft management of a complex set of diegetic levels (where the main first-person narrative is handled both above and below the footnotes line), and a mélange of forms (stream-of-consciousness, direct address to the reader, playscript, epigrammatic quotation, speech bubble, marginalia, random fragment insert – not to mention the photographics and the coffee-cup stains integrated into the mix). Looking at Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife in the 21st century, one recalls the complexity of hypermedia screens, which in itself is impressive for a work created in the 1960s. But this novella was not just superficial, forward-thinking fireworks. It was an investigation of the juxtaposition of media in life and in reading, and their effects on writers’ and readers’ bodies. No one can imagine – simply – merely; one must imagine within words or paint or metal, communicating genes or multiplying numbers.


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Imagination is its medium realized. You are your body – you do not choose the feet you walk in – and the poet is his language. He sees his world, and words form in his eyes just like the streams and trees there. He feels everything verbally. Objects, passions, actions – I myself believe that the true kiss comprises a secret exchange of words. … (Gass, 1998: unpaginated) Babs/Olga/Mrs Masters convinces us that the book she speaks from is indistinguishable from her uninhibited body and we, her readers, embrace her like lovers; with her guidance we believe that reading is a sort of sex and with each page a new captivation, a new sensual experience, a new enveloping encounter: … the words which speak, they are the body of the speaker … These words are all I am … Oh, I’m the girl upon this couch, all right, you needn’t fear; the one who’s waltzed you through these pages, clothed and bare, who’s hated you for her humiliations, sought your love, just as the striptease dancer does, soliciting male eyes for cash and feeling the light against her like a swelling organ. Could you love me? Love me then … My dears, my dears … how I would brood upon you: you, the world; and I, the language … I am that lady language chose to make her playhouse of … (and I’ve admittedly as many pages as my age)… (Gass, 1998: unpaginated) Appropriately, the pages are not numbered – a woman never tells! Like hypertext pages they have a more complex relationship with each other than mere numbering can express. Throughout, the aim of this multimodal novella is to ‘give new glasses to new eyes, and put those plots and patterns down we find our modern lot in’ (Gass, 1998: unpaginated). When interviewed by the Paris Review in 1977, Gass explained that the experiment he had attempted in Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife was about ‘trying to find a spatial coordinate to go with the music’ of the narrative voice. It was a difficult thing to do, and Gass felt his experiment had failed: … my ability to manipulate the spatial and visual side of the medium was so hopelessly amateurish (I was skating on one galosh), and the work also had to go through so many hands, that the visual business was only occasionally successful, and most of that was due to the excellent design work of [the book’s designer] Larry Levy, not me. Too many of my ideas turned out to be only ideas – situations where the reader says, ‘Oh yeah, I get the idea,’ but that’s all there is to get, the idea. I don’t give a shit for

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ideas – which in fiction represent inadequately embodied projects – I care only for affective effects. I’m still fooling around with visual business, but I am thinking of a way to make them sound. (Plimpton, 1981: 258) With hindsight, we see that the ‘effects’ Gass strove for beyond the print medium – expressed in terms of the spatial, the visual, music and sound – are the effects which hypermedia delivered. Knowing what he wanted, but without control of the technologies which could bring his multimodal ideas to fruition, Gass gives us a poignant insight into the vision and frustration of experimental writers reaching out towards the possibilities of electronic writing before it was available. There is a point at which writers’ experiments with the page merge with those of artists in artists’ books. Tom Phillips’ A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel (1971–2012) operates as an artist’s book – probably the best-known in the genre, published in five editions over 40 years by Thames and Hudson – with images painted onto every page of the 1892 edition of W.H. Mallock’s novel, A Human Document. Phillips produces an evolving, stuttering narrative about his character Bill Toge, an artist who struggles with work and his love life. Since 1971 Phillips has re-painted pages for each new edition (with more to come), continually finding newly relevant and updated aspects of Toge’s story by painting over different parts of the original pages and allowing different text bubbles from the originals to show through (Figure 4.2). In a review Gass said: The field of collage, of color and line, in concealing Mallock’s original, releases outbursts of words that find themselves in an altogether new syntactical space; and there, like notes, they sing a painted music. (Gass, 1996) Gass’s synaesthetic response emphasizes the deeper aims of Phillips’ pages. ‘I sing a book of the art that was’, Phillips disclosed on the title page of A Humument’s fifth edition, and added, ‘now read on/of mind art/though I have to hide to reveal’ (Phillips, 2012: 1). In moving away from the book as we knew it, Phillips says: ‘scribe the once or twice story/see how the arts connect/ … changes made the book continue’ (Phillips, 2012: 7). Phillips has explored the possibilities of the arts coming together on the page for four decades now. With A Humument made available as an app in 2012, such that pages can be randomly brought together, Phillips said: ‘Very soon after starting the book in the 1960s I dreamed of its use as an oracle, and it has taken 40 years for technology to make that possible.’ …


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Figure 4.2 Tom Phillips’ A Humument, 2012. The text reads: ‘He put art before self; /toge/he tried to draw her/drawing her strange reality’ Source: Phillips (2012: 309).

As technologist Tom Armitage notes: ‘This isn’t about the technology of display, the iPad. This is about the way delivery changes the relationship a reader has with a text, be it one they wrote or just one they’ve subscribed to.’ (Bridle, 2012) Phillips’s lifetime project is an indication of the commitment made by writers and artists coming from their own discipline conventions seeking the space and moment where their practices would link up. Dworkin’s No Medium looks at works where the marks on the page (or the paint on the canvas, or the sound of the music) have been erased (Dworkin, 2013), seemingly leaving the page with nothing to say, while in fact transferring the writerly statement to other conceptual spaces, inscribed in different ways. However, beyond the idea of writing something without text, or with the text implied, there is the idea that the materiality of the

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page itself might be challenged. Later in this chapter we will look at books where the binding and spine have been done away with, but there are also experiments where the physical properties of the page – its flatness, proportion or integrity – have been interfered with, leaving the text without its ‘level playing field’ but with many possibilities. John Barth’s story ‘FrameTale’ (1963) is an example. It is so short, it can be reproduced here in its entirety. The first half of the story is printed on one side of the page, the second half immediately behind it on the reverse: ONCE UPON A TIME THERE/WAS A STORY THAT BEGAN (Barth, 1988: 1–2) The strip of page ‘Frame-Tale’ is printed on is designed to be cut out and twisted, and the ends joined to form a Möbius strip. This allows the text to continue endlessly, and thus a seemingly very short, short story never finishes. An example of a different kind is the story printed on a page able to be folded as a paper fortune teller (or chatterbox) so that a variety of paths can be chosen in the narrative according to which faces of the chatterbox are being read. Experiments like these lie behind Jonathan Safran Foer’s insightful Tree of Codes (2011), which we will come back to later. Finally of interest regarding the page as a thing to be used differently (and also in relation to novels written with a constraint on words) is Joseph Kosuth’s Purloined: A Novel (2000), a project which began in 1966 but which was not published until 34 years later. Each page in Purloined was taken, literally, from another novel. More than 100 published books in different genres have contributed a page to Kosuth’s assemblage. The typefaces change, the characters’ names change: the plot doesn’t thicken, it separates. Although the strategy correlates with Tzara’s 1918 instructions for a Dadaist poem, Abish’s 99: The New Meaning (1990) and Rawle’s Woman’s World (2008 [2005]), it produces amusing rather than dramatic juxtapositions. As with Un Chien Andalou, we are engaged by our endeavour to make a linear narrative out of a series of fragments. Our linear fixations attach us strangely to the idea that the page itself will behave logically – will stay flat and in place in its book, will not go gallivanting into other books. Kosuth shows how it might happen otherwise.

Concrete prose Concrete prose developed from experiments by the concrete poetry movement in the 1950s and 1960s and, before that, the print-based visual poetry of the Surrealists and Futurists, and ultimately Greek religious art. Concrete prose – a visual narrative involving the design and layout of printed


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text to convey meaning in addition to the meaning of the words being used – exploits the page as a field where space can be meaningfully manipulated for narrative purposes. In the introduction to his early collection of concrete poems Once Again (1968), Jean-Francois Bory refers to three techniques used in concrete poetry: (a) word-disruption, or the ‘splitting up’ and ‘sliding of one word into another’ to discover language capable of surprisingly rich ‘multiple information’ (as, for example, in many of e.e. cummings’ poems, and much postmodernist writing later); (b) the use of ‘machine’ processes, such as the repetition of words or typeface ‘multiplying the virtual possibilities of a text or message ad infinitum’ which forces the reader’s ‘actual participation’ in making the meaning of the work; and (c) the recognition of the page as more than ‘a lumber room’ for meaningful material: Through force of habit the book has remained an object independent of the writer, a dead object. The rational use of the book remains to be achieved… The page itself can become a material, a statement, the information, the text, progressing or diminishing from page to page. The writer, thus becoming the layout artist of his book, will no longer write stories (or moments), but books. (Bory, 1968: 10–11) In presenting his collection of early concrete poems as an unfolding poetic sequence where ‘each page is constantly expanded by the next’ (Bory, 1968: 11), Bory suggests that concrete poetry techniques are ideally suited to narrative. French/American novelist Raymond Federman wrote two novels celebrated for their sustained use of concrete prose, Double or Nothing (1972) and Take It or Leave It (1976). In the 259-page Double or Nothing, a novel about a young man trying to write a novel, each page or double-page spread is conceived as a field for visual negotiation of meaning in line with Bory’s concrete poetry techniques. Figure 4.3 shows pp. 186–187 of the novel, the effect of alarm clocks on early morning New York tenement districts wonderfully described with a searing column of text disrupting the sleepy prose. On pp. 56–57 the protagonist/narrator’s coming to terms with the difficulties of setting up house in the unfamiliar maze of the New York tenement environment is captured in pages which make a maze also out of the issues the narrator is facing (see Figure 4.4). Brian McHale observes that the ‘spaced-out format’ of concrete prose can imitate the psychological, metaphysical and geographical conditions of the characters in the narrative (McHale, 1987: 186). Psychologically, our minds operate with a sense of space: in depression we feel ‘constricted’; when elated we feel ‘free’. Metaphysically we find some ideas palpably close and

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Figure 4.3 Raymond Federman, Double or Nothing, 1998, originally published in 1972. This is a page in a novel, not in a book of concrete poems (although Federman said it was neither: it was a ‘real fictitious discourse’) Source: Federman (1998: 186–187).

reassuring, others abstract and disorienting. Geographically, the space of the page can stand for where we stand confronting the world: a map for our progress; a record of where we have been. So, the concrete possibilities of the page reflect major themes in writing: the qualities of the environment, the nature of the journey; the state of mind. Kevin Roberts identifies the use of concrete space on the page as ‘white syntax’ (Roberts, 2001). This emphasizes the notion that when text is separated or moved around to produce blank/‘white’ spaces, those spaces themselves fill with and deliver meaning. Roberts says: ‘White syntax’ … ha[s] to do with paper, the enter key and the space-bar. It refers fundamentally to the space which may replace words on the page or create other syntactical effects. It deals with the time factor employed in or between lines or units or strophes of poetry. However it also has ramifications for fiction in terms of time jumps, or breaks or units or even chapters in the time flow of a novel. And, yes, the whole


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Figure 4.4 Raymond Federman, Double or Nothing, 1998, originally published in 1972 Source: Federman (1998: 56–57).

novel is ‘bound’ in a certain fashion, or enclosed finally, with ‘white syntax’. (Roberts, 2001) The blank space on the map of the page is not terra nullius, nor is it an area rightfully appropriated by the conventions of publishing; white syntax always says something about what and how we are reading. In traditional publishing it warns us away from going outside boundaries, and tells us that fiction, narrative and the act of reading are framed and manipulated. In experimental publishing it opens portals into other ways of saying things, with sometimes that way being silence itself. An excellent example of this occurs in Federman’s Take It Or Leave It, where the narrator tells the story about his father who died in a concentration camp. It’s a story which can only be written like this (Figure 4.5). The blanks are the parts of the story lost to history or too painful to recall or express. The whole story is one of explosive disruptions and fragments. Authorities may have tried to censor out the truth with regard to stories such as this, but the truth gets through, with all the more impact for its falling to

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Figure 4.5 Raymond Federman, Take It Or Leave It, 1976 Source: Federman (1997: n.p.).

pieces. Federman’s page is a powerful canvas; its silence speaks volumes; a space is worth a thousand words. A 21st-century example of the concrete novel is Adam Thirlwell’s Kapow! (2012). In Kapow! concrete elements are used to add a frisson to the reading. Each page (of the 81-page novel) has a section or two printed at a different angle from the rest of the text; the book must be turned around to varying degrees in order to read the re-placed fragment. Sometimes the fragment creates a pertinent shape in contrast to the rest of the page’s text, or literally takes off in another direction, like a distracted thought; at other times the fragment grows out so far from the text and its margin that the page must fold out, concertina-style, to accommodate it (Figure 4.6). The novel’s narrator, an author, comments on this type of strategy: … I began to imagine new forms, like pull-out sentences, and multiple highspeed changes in direction. I imagined concertina pages of stories, pasted pictures. And why not? It wasn’t I wanted to make words visual, like the former futuristi … I was imagining a story that was made up of so many digressions and evasions that in order to make it readable it would need to be divided in every direction. So that if you wrote it out as continuous block it would be the same but also different. It wasn’t


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Figure 4.6 Fold-out pp. 78 and 79 of Adam Thirlwell’s Kapow!, 2012 Source: Thirlwell (2012: 78–79).

because my ideal was some kind of multaneità. It was more like … trying to make things as fast as possible … ‘the book finds its channel to the brain through the eye, not through the ear; in this channel the waters rush with much greater speed and pressure…’ (Thirlwell, 2012: 18–19) In Kapow! the text can escape the page by the page growing wider, creating a panorama – not uncommon in children’s books, technical manuals and popular magazine publishing. The experiment provides a reminder of how limiting the paper page has been to the novel, although the scrolls of ancient days did not have this limitation, nor do the scrollable pages of digital devices today. The surface for writing always had promising spatial potential. Even when it was a pottery tablet, a papyrus scroll or a vellum page, it was as promising as a painter’s canvas or a mapmaker’s chart. However, the dimensions of the printing press and the hinged design of the codex format reined the page in to be a manageable component of a portable reading device subject to the capacities of a 15th-century mechanical process. The constrictions of the printed page ruled for 500 years, in spite of writers’ attempts to escape it.

Experiments with the Book The book as object Because it is a made object, the book has always tempted its makers to change its proportions, to dismantle and reassemble it, to make it move in ways different from those by which it already moved and was accessed (which were, in any case, quite sophisticated – a series of hinges captured by

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an encasing protective box). From the Middle Ages there were miniature books (for very personal use) and massive books (especially atlases to travel the world by) (see Bromer & Edison, 2007 and others). The idea of matching the size of publication to the experience of reading continues today. Unlike literary publishing, from the late 19th century onwards popular and children’s publishing experimented with the material nature of the book. From Lothar Meggendorfer’s intricate paper-engineered works to Eric Hill’s classic lift-the-flap picture book Where’s Spot? (1980) or Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s bestselling book-of-many-pieces The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters (1986), animation of the static page grew as a quest in the name of novelty, storytelling and educational value. But fiddling with the format was not condoned by literary publishing: the perceived seriousness of the literary work dictated that books that looked like playthings did not appear on serious publishers’ lists. However, literary investigations which focused on the physical properties of the book occurred notably in works which dispensed with the binding and spine altogether. The book-in-a-box phenomenon started in 1962 when French writer Marc Saporta published Composition No 1, a novel whose 150 unnumbered pages could be shuffled and read in any order. In the first English edition (1963), the loose leaves were held together by a band, contained in a box (Figure 4.7). Readers in 1963 probably looked at this box of printed papers and asked: ‘What is it?’ A novel had never appeared like this before, unless the perfect binding had given way and the work had splayed onto the floor at the reader’s feet, then to be gathered up, re-sorted, and held together with a rubber band; in which case it would have looked rather like Saporta’s book.

Figure 4.7 Left, Marc Saporta, Composition No 1, original Simon and Schuster US edition, 1963; right, Visual Editions version, 2011 Source: Erik Heywood, and © Visual Editions, Composition No. 1 by Marc Saporta, 2011.


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Writers, however, were quite familiar with this version of the novel: it resembled a paper manuscript (albeit unpaginated), i.e. the typical form of the unpublished novel in the 20th century. Saporta’s unbound novel drew the reader into an intimate relationship with the process of writing; it revealed aspects of narrative structuring not suggested by the bound book. The reader, asked to provide a structure for the work, became part of the writing process. Saporta wrote about his book, its characters and its storylines: The reader is requested to shuffle these pages like a deck of cards; to cut, if he likes, with his left hand, as at a fortuneteller’s. The order the pages then assume will orient X’s fate. For the time and order of events control a man’s life more than the nature of such events. Certainly there is a framework which history imposes: the presence of a man in the resistance, his transfer to the Army of Occupation in Germany, relate to a specific period. Similarly, the events that marked his childhood cannot be presented in the same way as those which he experienced as an adult. Nor is it a matter of indifference to know if he met his mistress Dagmar before or after his marriage; if he took advantage of Helga at the time of her adolescence or her maturity; if the theft he has committed occurred under cover of the resistance or in less troubled times; if the automobile accident in which he has been hurt is unrelated to the theft – or the rape – or if it occurred during his getaway. Whether the story ends well or badly depends on the concatenation of circumstances. A life is composed of many elements. But the number of possible compositions is infinite. (Saporta, quoted in Herd, 2011) The author thus gives clues about the nature of the story. Set in Europe in WWII and after, there is a cast of characters, but what happens to them is uncertain. Events include a theft, a rape, an automobile accident … but how these are related depends on the ‘pathway’ the reader’s reading provides. Actually, Composition No 1 is very unlike an accidentally spilled manuscript. It is a series of autonomous microstories – each fitting on a page and less than 250 words – a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are whole, selfcontained short-short stories, at least to the extent that each makes some sort of sense, often anonymous, generally disorienting, always puzzling. When reading Composition No 1 I find that I read without looking for a linear narrative pathway. Instead I read rhizomically – allowing the pieces to sit unfixed in a constellation in my mind as I press on. Thus each segment/

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incident/page is put into a holding pattern – a swirling, not a linear flow. There is a beauty in this, related to John Keats’ ‘Negative Capability’, where the reader ‘is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason’ (Keats, 1966: 329). This capacity to move forward in one’s reading while gathering data, enjoying the ride and not imposing an intellectual logic on its meaning is part of what Kress and van Leeuwen describe as finding the ‘reading path’ in multimodal reading (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006: 175ff.). Thus I don’t attempt to categorize as I go, as with watching Un Chien Andalou or reading ‘99: The New Meaning’ or If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller. I experience the opposite. I am helped by the fact that Composition No 1 is not a book. With each page, merely a tatter in my hands, there is not the same compunction to react linearly. It’s like picking up a scrap of evidence – you know there is a whole circle of story around the piece – and you keeping on going to gather more. Perhaps our ‘instinct’ for reading linearly is becoming less innate. While I know what I describe is a radical way of reading, I would actually call it radial: a kind of reading ultimately devoted to finding a meaningful centre to the swirl of narrative elements presented, but which is prepared to wait (for up to 150 pages) for the ways in and out of that centre to emerge. From the writer’s point of view, the idea of writing outwards from the centre, in different radiating avenues, is an interesting variation on the usually perceived experience of drafting and revising which trace attempts to write towards the centre of what the writer ‘really wants to say’. There is much more to be said about Composition No 1 in terms of what it reveals about writing, but it is rarely cited in any depth. I wonder if one of the reasons it has been ignored is simply that it is very hard to reference. Being unpaginated, it does not fit with academia’s requirements, nor with those of literary criticism. Even reviewing it is tricky: ‘the incident I am talking about is to be found on the 88th page I happened to turn up after shuffling the deck!’ This reveals one of the services publishing has provided the reader for centuries: you won’t be sold the writer’s chaotic manuscript; you’ll get an ordered narrative experience. But the writer’s pen or keyboard is often a long way removed. This novel is so engagingly written, with each page such a fascinating gem of literary experience; it shows us the amazing things that could have been done with narrative, but they were hidden from us by conventions limited by the linear. I think Composition No 1 is un-put-downable – (perhaps ironically) a pageturner! The reader doesn’t just want to see what happens at ‘the end’, but how the circle gets closed, if ever, and what that boundary of the narrative eventually contains. Thus the satisfaction in reading this novel is spatial, not linear. Not surprisingly, Composition No 1 was one of the first 21st-century

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novels to be published for the iPad: to be read on ‘Shuffle’ (Pavlus, 2011). The iPad version seems like the book Composition No 1 always wanted to be – set free from paper hinges yet, in being unbound, still contained. Following closely on the publication of Saporta’s novel, Julio Cortázar published Hopscotch (1963), also in French, in Paris. Cortázar wanted his work to be published in a shuffle-able format, but the publisher refused. The book was released with the author suggesting an alternative reading path to that in which the spine held the pages. ‘In its own way this book consists of many books, but two books above all. The reader is invited to choose between these two possibilities. . . .’ (Cortázar, 1967: Author’s note). This made Hopscotch a strange phenomenon – a bound book that denied it was bound. Hopscotch attracted more lasting attention than did Composition No 1, presumably because it was not actually shuffle-able and therefore manageable. As an experiment it put forth the hypothesis of shuffle-ability, but did not go so far as to test the case. The re-arrangeable chapters in B.S. Johnson’s beautifully crafted The Unfortunates (1969) are the ideal narrative vehicle for an investigation of memory (see Figure 4.8). It is not the pages you can read in random order here, but the chapters, each of which is bound separately (although the author suggests ‘First’ and ‘Last’ for two of them). There is no through pagination of the book; each of the 27 chapters starts at page 1.

Figure 4.8 B.S. Johnson with his novel, The Unfortunates, 1969 Source: Hooper (2014):

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The Unfortunates posits that memory works unpredictably, that whole incidents can be recalled in chunks although their impact on each other, their logics and implications, are never certain – and even the chunks themselves involve contradictions and fade-outs. As one goes back over events, memory returns them repeatedly and in different sequences, so for reading this novel the order in which one encounters the tragic, traumatic past doesn’t matter. They all swirl there, this constellation of painful recollections, beyond memory, ready to erupt back up. With this novel-in-a-box I have the feeling that one could keep shuffling the chapters even while reading them. There is no necessity to read each segment of the narrator’s past life just once, albeit in random order. The point of the novel is, I think, that memory keeps returning to incidents, over and over, to try to make sense of them, and fails again, of course. The narrative voice in The Unfortunates reinforces this. Brilliantly, it is the idiosyncratic voice of memory, the mind’s voice, replete with stops and stammerings and gropings towards some sort of elusive clarity: … and sighing she said, I’ll have to have the operation. But not during my tenure she didn’t, she could never bring herself to, for some reason, though she was well on, about 30, I should guess, while I was still 25, I suppose, then, or perhaps 26. The things Tony’s death throws up, throws up. His father drove us back to some station, Ewell I suppose it was, and we went on to Waterloo where I put her on some train back to her opera-loving mother. A curious affair or failed affair altogether. Can’t remember if I even liked her. (Johnson, 1999: page marked ‘1’ in one of the 2-page chapters; the gap is part of the original text) The novel is about British university life and after in the 1950s and 1960s, and the trigger for writing it came from a promise (to write it all down) Johnson made to his close friend Tony Tillinghast who died from cancer a few years earlier, which gives the work its grief-stricken tone as well as its fragile structure. Apart from the difficulties of ever ‘writing it all down’, of compiling and focusing on the events of a long friendship, The Unfortunates also focuses on other themes involving the notion of assemblage, of putting things together when it is a great challenge to do so. The scoring of a goal in football, the writing of a newspaper report on a soccer match, the building of an architectural structure, the understanding of how to build a close relationship, the understanding of what goes wrong in a failed marriage, the progress of cancer in the body – the question of how things are compiled is constantly at issue. This is the bone the novel can never let go of, and the fact that the chapters can be rearranged forever only makes the project more poignant. Johnson said of the process for the novel:


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The moment at which The Unfortunates (1969) occurred was on the main railway station at Nottingham. I had been sent there to report a soccer match for the Observer … and all the afternoon I was there the things [Tony and I] had done together kept coming back to me as I was going about this routine job of reporting a soccer match: the dead past and the living present interacted and transposed themselves in my mind. … The main technical problem with The Unfortunates was the randomness of the material. That is, the memories of Tony and the routine football reporting, the past and the present, interwove in a completely random manner, without chronology. This is the way the mind works, my mind anyway, and for reasons given the novel was to be as nearly as possible a re-created transcript of how my mind worked during eight hours on this particular Saturday. … This randomness was directly in conflict with the technological fact of the bound book: for the bound book imposes an order, a fixed page order, on the material. I think I went some way towards solving this problem by writing the book in sections and having those sections not bound together but loose in a box. … In this way the whole novel reflected the randomness of the material: it was itself a physical tangible metaphor for randomness and the nature of cancer. (Johnson, 1973: 24–26) The Unfortunates and Composition No 1 are included in a classification which Espen Aarseth calls ergodic literature, where ‘nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text’ (Aarseth, 1997: 1). This can be writing such as a novel-in-a-box which engages the reader to move its parts around when reading, or it can be a cybertext like Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl (1995) which requires the user to select the text by mouse-clicking. The term is useful because it provides a bridge between 20th- and 21st-century writing, genres and platforms – it allows us to talk about John Barth’s ‘Frame-Tale’, B.S. Johnson’s The Unfortunates and Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl all in the one breath, because it recognizes the common denominator of interactive usership. With this perspective, one might say that the new box for the old novel-in-a-box is the computer or the iPad. Nevertheless, the old book-in-a-box seems more popular than ever, perhaps in response to the interactivity endorsed by hypertext and app novels. J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst’s novel S. (2013) is literally a case containing a (fake) book between whose pages are greeting cards, photographs, letters, maps, cuttings, etc., all of which are meant to be read as part of the novel. Similarly, the short story anthology has become a boxed set – of writing and maps – in Geoff Dyer et al.’s Where You Are: A Book of Maps That Will Leave You Completely Lost (Dyer

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et al., 2013) and, perhaps most creative of all, there is Issue 36 of McSweeney’s magazine edited by Dave Eggers (2011) (Figure 4.9). This is not just a book in a box, it is a journal in a box presented physically as several books and visually as the brain inside a square head! The issue includes a two-act play, an annotated fragment from a novel, an oral history, a handwritten story illustrated by its author, a 1961 abridgment of a 1914 adventure tale, an imaginary comedy, various stories and letters, a painting serialized over four postcards and a 40-inch scroll of fortunes to clip and use. This is the ergodic to the extreme, proof that experimentation in the last 100 years has led to wonderfully radical outcomes and, as Aarseth says, demonstration that ‘paper can hold its own against the computer as a technology of ergodic texts’ (Aarseth, 1997: 10).

The book as concept While the history of the book is a history of thinking about the book in new ways, such ways to adapt and change it were not limited to varying the codex form. Between the 18th and 21st centuries, writers and publishers kept thinking about how the book might be applied to newly creative outcomes (and to making money), but this did not necessarily involve radical change to its physical properties: there were new kinds of books which could be contained in the conventional text monograph.

Figure 4.9 Dave Eggers (ed.) McSweeney’s Issue 36 (10 January 2011) – 500-page boxed set open and closed Source: Eggers (2011).

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Collaborative fiction provides an example. The idea that a novel or a short story should have just one author is wrapped in monotheistic, patriarchal and monographic adherences that pertained in Western culture until only recently. The concept that an author was the authoritative Creator of a new world of fiction was in keeping with Christian religious ideals. The Romantic notion of the visitation of the Muse upon the inspired writer was unlikely to happen to multiple writers in such convenient fashion that each could contribute to a masterwork: a potential orgy of inspiration was different from individual enlightenment. Authors collaborated to write reports, technical manuals, critical analysis, film scripts and children’s books (i.e. not ‘serious’ literature), or acted together as editors of collections, but literary creative work was considered a solitary business. In cases where two authors did collaborate, they likely published under a singlename pseudonym. I recall buying a crime novel by the Swedish husband and wife pair, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, one of their Martin Beck police investigation series, and wondered how they shared the responsibilities of coming up with the ideas, doing the planning, writing the manuscript and then editing it – together. Some time later, I co-wrote three novels for teenagers with Caron Krauth (published by Penguin, 1987–1990) so I found out how writing collaborations work. There are surprisingly useful ways in which the writing process can be divided up: Caron and I discovered that she was good at thinking up ideas for the kind of books we were writing, and I was good at writing those ideas down. In the always-difficult times when the individual writer must take off his creative/writing hat and put on his critical/editing hat, we found having two heads was better than one: I produced the draft and she brought a fresh view to it as the editing reader. Few collaborations occurred in the 20th century. More multiple authoring happens now, especially in genre categories, due to writers’ access to the web, the ease it offers for shared working methods, and the rise of fandom community writing in the 1990s. Possibly the most famous collaborative work of the last century was The Floating Admiral (1931), a crime novel written by 14 members of the Detection Club in London, including G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. According to Sayers in her 1931 Introduction, the chapters were written serially: Except in the case of Mr. Chesterton’s picturesque Prologue, which was written last, each contributor tackled the mystery presented to him in the preceding chapters without having the slightest idea what solution or solutions the previous authors had in mind. Two rules only were imposed. Each writer must construct his instalment with a definite

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solution in view – that is, he must not introduce new complications merely ‘to make it more difficult.’ He must be ready, if called upon, to explain his own clues coherently and plausibly; and to make sure that he was playing fair in this respect, each writer was bound to deliver, together with the manuscript of his own chapter, his own proposed solution of the mystery. These solutions are printed at the end of the book for the benefit of the curious reader. Secondly, each writer was bound to deal faithfully with all the difficulties left for his consideration by his predecessors. . . . (Sayers, in Chesterton et al., 2011) This work may seem dated and a little awkward to readers now, but the 2011 edition’s preface by Simon Brett, the current president of the Detection Club, strongly reflects old-fashioned thinking about collaborative practice: … it is in the spirit of a parlour game that The Floating Admiral should be approached. The idea of a serious (should I use that awful word ‘literary’?) novel written by a relay of authors is incongruous. For a lighthearted work of crime fiction, though, the concept is fun. … (Brett, in Chesterton et al., 2011) Examples of 20th-century collaborative novels include: The Boy in the Bush (1924) by D.H. Lawrence and Mollie Skinner (where Lawrence re-wrote the draft originally produced by Skinner); Caverns (1989), a novel Ken Kesey produced as a joint effort with a creative writing class at the University of Oregon (where the work was written sentence-by-sentence in the classroom by its 14 authors); and Naked Came the Stranger (1969), a bestseller by ‘Penelope Ashe’ (actually written by newspaper man Mike McGrady and several of his Newsday journalist mates to prove that bad fiction could sell so long as it involved plenty of sex). In the 21st century, the focus for collaborative writing is still among the so-called less literary genres, for example writing for teenagers and crime fiction. John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson (2010) is a Young Adult novel which developed progressively out of emailexchanged chapters. Collaborative crime thrillers include: No Rest for the Dead (26 Bestselling authors, 2011) where 26 crime writers (orchestrated by the book’s writer/editor) worked together to provide chapters for an already planned-out mystery; and Karin Slaughter’s Like a Charm (2004), a novel/ story collection serially written by 15 established writers in a Chinese whispers format coordinated by Slaughter, where each writer picked up the story


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in their own fictional locale. There are lists of ‘great collaborations’ on the web nowadays. Taking the concept of collaboration further than writing a single work together, the cooperative group Wu Ming (Chinese for ‘anonymous’) comprises five Italian authors who between them have published novels, essays, works of short fiction and a film. These include the historical novels Q (2003), ’54 (2006) and Manituana (2009). The members of the group – Roberto Bui (Wu Ming 1), Giovanni Cattabriga (Wu Ming 2), Luca Di Meo (Wu Ming 3, he left in 2008), Federico Guglielmi (Wu Ming 4) and Riccardo Pedrini (Wu Ming 5) – use fiction to air dissident reinterpretations of history. Also unconventionally, they offer their works for free (‘copyleft’) on their internet site ( downloads.shtml), while at the same time asking readers to buy their books. Wu Ming have a sense of themselves as something like a rock band, each contributing with a different ‘instrument’ or voice to an overall set of compositions. Collaborative teams work together over long periods and to great acclaim in the fields of music and film, but in the field of fiction this is unusual. Wu Ming establish an innovative concept of authorship – the many-in-one writer – a flip-side to the 20th-century multiple authorship of the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa who wrote and published under many different ‘heteronyms’ (Pessoa, 1988: 7). Examples of collaborative books of a different kind – not novels, but seriously literary in their intentions – are two community-produced story collections: Rozié, Allen and Walter’s As You Were Saying: American Writers Respond to their French Contemporaries (2007) and Adam Thirlwell’s Multiples: An Anthology of Stories in an Assortment of Languages and Literary Styles (2013). In the former, French writers start stories off and American writers finish them, in the process revealing delightful differences in personal and cultural attitudes. In the latter, the process started with a variety of stories in different languages. Writers from various countries translated these stories into their own languages, these were passed on to others for translation, then these translations were passed to others again, etc. Most of the stories went through six different manifestations, returning to English three times along the way. Some of them are particularly interesting because the translators were not fluent in the languages they were translating from. This is not just literary Chinese whispers, it is literary multilingual whispers. Perhaps the most radical of collaborative endeavours are recent re-worked and re-typed novels where there is a gap of up to 250 years between phases of the collaboration. In the Visual Editions’ 2010 version of Tristram Shandy, Sterne’s 1750s typographical and visual innovation is re-worked to make it relevant for the reading capacities of contemporary readers. In Simon Morris’s

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Getting Inside Jack Kerouac’s Head (2009), the pages of the 1951 continuous scroll version of Kerouac’s On the Road manuscript have been re-typed and presented page-by-page in reverse order – as they appeared one-page-eachday on Morris’s blog between 31 May 2008 and 22 March 2009 (Morris, 2008–2009). These Sterne and Kerouac projects are about getting closer to, and understanding, writers’ processes. They challenge the concept that the book is something divorced from its manuscript, and that recognition of the writer’s role in the production of the work can be minimized. They emphasize the point that, with the computer’s assistance – its collaboration, we might say – the codex can take even more forms than previously.

5 Radical Experiments 3: Narrative, Visuals, Sound

Experiments with Narrative Structure Experiments with fiction’s narrative structure have been a focus for academic literary studies because innovations of this kind do not cross into other artforms. Nor do they need to disrupt normal text printing processes or meddle with the material structure of the book. Experiments with narrative structure have been ‘safer’ in publishing terms: for example, Italo Calvino’s nonlinear novel If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler (1979) was a bestseller in English in spite of it comprising mainly 10 beginnings to 10 different novels. In academic literary discourse, ‘experimental fiction’ is typically thought to involve experiments with narrative structure. A large number of these experiments involve mainstream writers and publishers. For example, William Faulkner’s The Wild Palms (1939) (also known as If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem) has two distinct and separate novellas interwoven as alternating chapters to make a single novel, while Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow or the Nature of the Offence (1991) tells its story backwards. At the very beginnings of the novel form in English, the linear plotline was not yet firmly established as the convention. While writers experimented with a variety of forms – including the linear retelling of a character’s ‘history’, as in some of Fielding’s and Defoe’s works – experiments were also aimed at testing the effectiveness of fragmented, discontinuous and composite narrative structures. These included, most notably, epistolary narratives where the plot emerged out of a series of letters sent between characters. In the 17th century, Aphra Behn’s Love-Letters Between a Noble-man and His Sister (1684) was very popular, as were Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded (1740) and Clarissa (1749) in the 18th century. In the 19th century two pioneering and highly influential genre works, Mary Shelley’s 110

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Frankenstein (1818) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), both used the fragmentary form of letters, although Dracula used other types of documents too – journals and diaries, the newspaper clipping, the telegram, etc. In the 21st century the ‘experiment’ continues with popular novels comprising sets of email exchanges, text messages, skype transcripts, etc. – e.g. Herman Wouk’s The Lawgiver (2013) and Meg Cabot’s The Boy Next Door (2002). Although popular at the inauguration of the novel form, the fragmented narrative did not become the dominant form: the linear narrative, more related to forms of storytelling used in epic poetry, histories and journals, became the default. Radical approaches to narrative framework and shape subsequently included: the nonlinearity of fragmented forms along with multiple, discontinuous, simultaneous and interspersed narratives; cut-up, collaged, random, nested, plaited, rhizomic and self-erasing narratives; and so on. Each of these in some way challenged the traditional linear, time-based logic of storytelling as experimental writers sought new ways to say things. Generally speaking, when we tamper with narrative structure we tamper with plot. In the traditional plot there is the simplified framework sequence Beginning > Middle > End, which can be expressed in more human (action and psychology) terms as Explication > Complication > Climax > Resolution. Minor variations on this predictable structuring, for example circular or cyclic structures, can produce a story which ends up back where it started – Beginning > Middle > End > Beginning – or a story which starts with its end point then sets off to show how that end point was reached – Resolution > Explication > Complication > Climax > Resolution. Many stories use a comparative structure where more than one narrative strand is involved; for example, a main plot is interwoven with a subplot (the subplot contrasting with and commenting on the main plot), or the use of framing/nesting devices (where a story is told within a story, also for contrastive purposes). A radical twist on linear structure is where the story, or parts of the story, are told in reverse sequence, as with Time’s Arrow or the film Memento (2000), but few works go this far. Most prevalent is the time-based discontinuous narrative, where the timeline of the story alternates between present events and flashbacks, or parts of the chronological sequence are cut out (for the reader to fill in by deduction), or a group of events occur in a single time setting but are recorded in different locations. While there are many discontinuous novels to cite as examples (see the list of 200+ story cycle novels compiled by Maggie Dunn and Ann Morris in The Composite Novel, 1995), a description of methods used for composite viewpoint or discontinuous narrative can be made by focusing on two pieces of short fiction. Robert Coover’s ‘The Babysitter’ (1969) is the best-known example of a single-setting plotline where the chronological sequence is significantly mixed about due to the


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wildly varying impressionistic interpretations of events among the characters. For contrast, Helen Garner’s ‘The Life of Art’ (1985) retains a single character viewpoint but disorders chronology completely as part of the narrating character’s recall and psychological make-up. In both cases, the writers reflect on (and reflect) the way we compile accounts of our own and others’ experience in the modern world. In Coover’s novelette, a babysitter is engaged for the evening by a husband and wife who go out to a party. While looking after the three children, bathing them and watching TV, the teenage girl has her own difficulties and fantasies. But she is also central to the planning and fantasies of at least three males: two prospective age-mate visitors and the drunken partying husband. At least five plotlines are developed in the story, each from a different narrative viewpoint: the babysitter herself, the drunken husband, the boyfriend, the partying wife, and perhaps one or more drama storylines playing on the television. At the end of ‘The Babysitter’, the main character has been either: part of an orgy; raped; murdered; accidentally killed; or she had a perfectly normal evening. Another mayhem possibility is that this story has got mixed up with an item presented on the television news – another plot entirely. The writer orchestrates and manipulates the variety of plot strands to create several narrative possibilities, which include ‘the reality’, the fantasies, and the cover-ups of the various narrators telling their versions of the story. The reader is left with a kaleidoscopic sense of what happened or might have happened – several scenarios, plot shapes and outcomes hover in the reader’s mind. The narrative is several stories, interlayered and tangled. The disruptions to narrative structure not only reflect the highly disturbing nature of the events in the story but also they provide the reader with the opportunity to apply their own moral judgment in making their own reading out of the pieces of narrative provided. Coover’s novelette demonstrates how focus on a chronological series of events is caused to change when the writer involves character psychologies. As it moves from seemingly normal time logics to more complicated ones, ‘The Babysitter’ recognizes a major shift in literary sensibility during the 20th century, where the locus for the narrative viewpoint in fiction moved from the external and objective (third person) to the internal and subjective (first person). Structures more experimental even than Coover’s shatter or explode the narrative completely. Many radical works ignore normal sequencing and ask the reader to apply their own logic from the start. They present a scatter of jigsaw pieces and ask the reader to put the pieces of the narrative puzzle together without the writer’s help. Helen Garner’s story ‘The Life of Art’ does not have any linear unfolding at all; instead it comes at the reader like a scattergun set of fragments, or like snapshots in a mixed-up album. It is an

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account of two women’s lives, of incidents and a relationship, but it does not read like a journey, or even an imperfectly remembered journey sequence; instead it hops randomly all over the place. It does not lay incidents down in an orderly fashion; it does not unfold by cause and effect. It does not have a clear sense of chronology: flashbacks are jumbled with events in the present and future – in fact the story does not seem to have a ‘present’ – and in spite of its shortness the story nevertheless covers 20 years or more. It does not have a clear central focus; the reader is not sure if the piece is about the friend of the narrator or the narrator herself. The story defies narrative structure and asks the reader to provide one. All of this is done in precisely focused fragments, not using narrative structure to represent the vagaries of recall, but simply to suggest how the memory works as a series of flashes. Personally, I enjoy reading this story with the hypothesis that the ‘friend’ of the narrator does not exist – that the narrator is actually talking about herself, looking back at when she was younger. My reading is a consequence of the fact that when the writer abandons the control inherent in traditional narrative structure, then opportunities open up for the reader to create their own aesthetic satisfactions. In these Coover and Garner narratives a key theme is discernible: that radical writers attempt in story to reflect the nature of life itself – and the psychological experience of living it – where things don’t just roll out smoothly and logically. Real-life incidents occur somewhat haphazardly for us. We are involved in one strand of living while other strands intervene or go on simultaneously, or unrelated things happen out of the blue. In order for us to make sense of our lives we have to find significant patterns. Although ‘people want their lives to have meaning’ (Garner, 1985: 59), there are stories that can’t be told (‘but that’s another story’, Garner, 1985: 55) and other stories that lead nowhere (‘but it doesn’t matter now’, Garner, 1985: 59). Garner has said that writing fiction is like trying to make a patchwork quilt look seamless. A novel is made up of scraps of our own lives and bits of other people’s, and things we think of in the middle of the night and whole notebooks full of randomly collected details. (Garner, quoted in McPhee, 2001: 244–245) Garner explained further: My initial reason for writing is that I need to shape things so I can make them bearable or comprehensible to myself. It’s my way of making sense of things that I’ve lived and seen other people live, things that I’m afraid of, or that I long for. (Garner, quoted in Grenville & Woolfe, 1993: 71)


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Garner taps into feminist ideas which seek to dismantle old hegemonic structures and replace them with matrix-like rhizomic structures. Thus, her story’s ending is not an end-point resolution of the issues raised, but rather a point of re-entry into the matrix, as is the case with Coover’s story. This kind of project, where the writer tries to interpret and reflect the multifaceted nature of experience by manipulating narrative textual structures, leads eventually to the idea of multimodality in fiction. In 1975 Raymond Federman wrote: The pseudo-realistic novel sought to give a semblance of order to the chaos of life, and did so by relying on the well-made plot (the story line) which, as we now realize, has become quite inessential to fiction. … Therefore, the elements of the new [fiction] discourse (words, phrases, sequences, scenes, spaces, etc.) must become digressive from one another – digressive from the element that precedes and the element that follows. In fact, these elements will now occur simultaneously and offer multiple possibilities of re-arrangement in the process of reading. (Federman, 1975: 10–11) Here Federman gets close to proposing a Kressian multimodal theory for writing, one which involves spatial reading paths, animation of the page, and even sound (note that Federman’s third novel, Take It Or Leave It, gives the instruction on the title page: ‘to be read aloud either standing or sitting’; Federman, 1997: Title page). According to Federman, a writer entering into an experiment with structure inevitably creates ‘a kind of writing, a kind of discourse whose shape will be an interrogation, an endless interrogation of what it is doing while doing it’ (Federman, 1975: 11). This is an interrogation of the writer’s process itself. Manipulating structure foregrounds process, sets it out from behind conventional method and patterning, and casts light on it. Radical narrative modes allowed writers to demonstrate their thinking about their processes, and to introduce into their fiction exegetical material giving insight into the judgments and decisions they made in writing it. Laurence Sterne included diagrams in Tristram Shandy to explain – in a humorous way – the shape of his narrative progress (Figure 5.1). With the advantages he had in writing so early in the development of the novel, and as a self-publisher in a time when conventions were yet unsettled, Sterne was able to speak to his reader directly and share his critical analysis of what he was doing. Effectively, he usurped in part the role of the academic critic as we came to understand it, by analyzing for the reader what he did in making

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Figure 5.1 Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Vol. XI, Chap. XL, 1761 Source:

his fiction. Most significantly, he showed that writers simply do have ideas about, and understand, the structures they work with. Two centuries later, when conventions of literary fiction were firmly established, John Barth reprised Sterne by providing a diagrammatic account of his narrative structure in the context of a story all about challenging the way we experience reality and the way we then go about writing it down (Figure 5.2). In the 20th century, the project of understanding how narrative might flexibly adapt to suit the plethora of stories that needed telling resulted in


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Figure 5.2 John Barth, Lost in the Funhouse, 1968 Source: Barth (1988: 95).

many struggles with the inflexibility of the page and printing, and of reading traditions. The list of notable structural experiments in English in that century begins with James Joyce’s Dubliners (1914) and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919) as one kind of narrative experiment (where a story cycle builds to a composite novel), and Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons (1914) as another kind (where narrative is so disrupted by language play and kaleidoscopic viewpoint

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change that the story all but disappears). Although at opposite ends of the narrative strategy spectrum, the two kinds of experiment were related. Both were about allowing multiplicity into storytelling. Joyce and Anderson used multiple character viewpoints to create composite portraits of two communities (Dublin city-dwellers and Ohio small-town residents). Stein used the multiplicity of a single narrator’s emotional, intellectual and psychological framing to create a cubist view of typical still-life elements (objects, food, rooms) – a record of the many angles taken by a single mind’s associations. In the 1920s John Dos Passos used collaged narratives in Manhattan Transfer (1925) to form a portrait of a city and Ernest Hemingway presented separate stories as episodes in the development of a boy growing to manhood in his In Our Time collection (1925). In 1927 Thornton Wilder published The Bridge of San Luis Rey, a novel where five separate story strands converge in one dramatic, and tragic, climax. Dos Passos returned to collaged narrative in his U.S.A. Trilogy (1930–1936) to make portraits of citizens in various parts of the country which particularly traced the growing influence of the media. In the Trilogy, the media themselves have voices in the fiction (the recurring ‘Newsreel’ sections speak via newspaper headlines and popular song lyrics) and are given narrative viewpoints on equal standing with the characters. Dos Passos weaves together four modes in these novels – fictional narrative, ‘The Camera Eye’, the ‘Newsreel’ and biographies of historical figures – not only giving different perspectives and tonalities to accounts of a sprawling urban lifestyle, but also to indicate that the society’s growing complexity needs to be read in multiple ways. Intersections between the objective media eye, biography, and impressionistic first- and third-person fiction refract the urban experience to make it more fully comprehendible. William Faulkner further experimented with a discontinuous technique in The Sound and the Fury (1929), which is divided into four sections: three different characters narrate on three different days in 1928 and 1910, and an omniscient narrator on another day in 1928. In As I Lay Dying (1930), Faulkner used 15 different characters to narrate separate chapters of the novel. In the 1950s and 1960s Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs worked together on the cut-up technique which helped Burroughs produce Naked Lunch (1959) and the Nova Trilogy (1961–1964). All four novels were collaged from the ‘word hoard’ manuscript Burroughs wrote from 1953 to 1958: a massive, uncontrolled set of 1000 pages created, and often abandoned, in digs ‘from Texas to Tangier, Venice, Paris; Mexico too. There was said to be a whole suitcase full in a Tangier bar or in some junky’s villa – anyway, it never got printed and where is it now?’ (Gysin, 2001: 125). The technique involved selecting from and rearranging the word hoard using various methods of random editing. Allen Ginsberg, assisting Burroughs and


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Gysin as their agent, called Naked Lunch ‘an endless novel which will drive everyone mad’ (Ginsberg, 2000: 3). But the fragmentation craziness which started with Tzara’s cut-up instructions to make a Dadaist poem (see Adamowicz, 2005: 48–49; Tzara, n.d.) led to the massive cult reputation which Burroughs’ novels achieved. The method found its context, and the readership whose experience it represented, in the drug-fuelled, liberated lifestyle of the 1960s. Gysin gives an account of the craziness of the process in ‘Cut-Ups: A Project for Disastrous Success’ (1964). Sections of the word hoard for the Naked Lunch manuscript were emerging from Burroughs’ clutter and being sent off to the printer haphazardly, even as more packets of old manuscript flowed out into the space Burroughs was trying to clear out in order to kick his habit right there, as soon as the book was out of the room. The raw material of Naked Lunch overwhelmed us. Showers of fading snapshots fell through the air: Old Bull’s Texas farm, the Upper Reaches of the Amazon …; Tangier and Mayan Codices …; shots of boys from every time and place. Burroughs was more intent on scotch-taping his photos together into one great continuum on the wall, where scenes faded and slipped into one another, than occupied with editing the monster manuscript. … When he found himself in front of the wrecked typewriter, he hammered out new stuff. There were already dozens of variants, and, if something seemed missing, slices of earlier writing slid silently into place alongside later routines because none of the pages were numbered. What to do with all this? Stick it on the wall along with the photographs and see what it looks like. Here, just stick these two pages together, end to end, and send it back like a big roll of music for a pianola. It’s just material, after all. There is nothing sacred about words. ‘Word falling. Photo falling. Break through in gray room.’ (Gysin, 2001: 125–126) This marvellous image of Burroughs and Gysin wrestling with the monster manuscript, not knowing how to control or handle it, is central to the problems writers perceived in dealing with narrative in the 20th century. The inadequacy of old linear modes to account honestly for multiplicity of experience led to these writers desperately seeking solutions such as hanging their writing like photographs, or presenting it as a music roll for a pianola. The linear written text simply didn’t capture it all – what could writers do?!

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In the 1960s and 1970s writers published an increasing number of novels using the multiple story technique. In Europe Italo Calvino produced five multi-stranded novels while Simone de Beauvoir’s novel The Woman Destroyed (1967) employed three intersecting novellas (de Beauvoir, 1969). In America, influential works by John Barth, Robert Coover, John Updike and Donald Barthelme tested the possibilities of composite and discontinuous narrative techniques, as did John Fowles in the UK and Frank Moorhouse in Australia. By the 1980s and 1990s the form was no longer ‘experimental’; it had become mainstream in English and European languages (as Dunn and Morris’s extensive list shows). Not surprisingly, when hypertext became available for storytelling in the 1990s, the idea of making an overarching narrative out of separate stories or fragments using hyperlinked pages was not unfamiliar to writers such as Michael Joyce (afternoon: a story, 1990) and Shelley Jackson (Patchwork Girl, 1995). Parallel, plaited, interleaved, interspersed, layered, simultaneous, bifurcating, converging, and many other kinds of multiply stranded print narratives were the precursors to hypertext and lent themselves readily to the capacities of the computer screen while reflecting the growing multiplicity and complication of living in the technological age.

Experiments with Visuals and Graphics For writers in the past, the combination of visual and textual elements in literary narrative seemed a seriously transgressive area of experimentation. The line that runs from Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, through Rodenbach’s Brugesla-Morte and Surrealist innovations with text and photography, to Gass’s Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife represents what was thought (not so long ago) to be a very radical lineage. A key challenge to the accepted traditions of the printed page and the dominance of monomodal reading occurred whenever graphics invaded literary fiction. The graphic novel belonged in the trash alongside kids’ comics until the impact of Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale in 1980– 1985 (Spiegelman, 1987), when a dramatic Holocaust story was delivered with literary force and sensitivity in a comic strip form. Only in the first decade of the 21st century did mainstream publishing fully accept visual elements into the serious adult novel, as in, for example, W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz (2001), Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2005) and Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana: An Illustrated Novel (2005).

Found images The images which formed part of the narrative of Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife in 1968 were produced specifically for that publication, but another sort


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of graphic experiment involved found visuals, often collaged together. In his collection Forty Stories (1987), Donald Barthelme used cut-up and reassembled images from architectural drawing books, anatomical texts, illustrated historical works and other graphic publications to create short stories (Figure 5.3). When reading his ‘At the Tolstoy Museum’ or ‘The Flight of Pigeons from the Palace’ in Forty Stories (Barthelme, 1989) the reader cannot help but wonder which came first: the cut-up graphics or the nuanced text? Or did neither come first? The latter question is not so readily asked when conventional thinking proposes that the two composing processes – the visual and the textual – must be segregated. Clearly with Barthelme the writing process was multimodal: text and image were composed as narrative together. The images do not illustrate the story; they are as integral as the text to the telling of the story. Barthelme called his stories ‘Max Ernst collages’, indicating his awareness of the painter’s cut-and-paste experiments in visual narrative from the 1930s (Barthelme, 2014). As a writing exercise, collaging together unlike images and building a text among them is fascinating in terms of allowing the mind to create visual/textual narratives – subsequently an integrated narrative.

Figure 5.3 Donald Barthelme, Forty Stories, 1987 Source: Barthelme (1989: 136–137).

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Barthelme’s experiments harked back to Max Ernst’s Surrealist masterpiece, Une Semaine de Bonté (1934), a wordless novel made from ‘chiefly the relatively crude and usually lurid wood-engraved illustrations of French popular fiction that were plentiful in the books and periodicals of the late nineteenth century’ (Ernst, 1976: vi). Reading Une Semaine de Bonté provides the experience of narrative created wordlessly – by images alone – and of how our minds adapt to produce narrative pathways in visual terms (Figure 5.4). Apart from the irony that Ernst’s cut-ups of low-culture potboilers have become acclaimed high-culture work, Une Semaine de Bonté suggests one reason why 20th-century literary writers were criticized for publishing narratives which merged visual and textual elements, as happened to Barthelme (2014). For most of the century, the ‘class’ difference between the visual and the textual was sacrosanct: art galleries were cathedrals devoted to worship of the individual image – ‘its unique existence’, as Walter Benjamin (1968: 220) said – but the printing press degraded the image to low-class mass production. Illustration was acceptable for children’s books and potboilers, but the literary was denoted by words-only text and must stay pure. Of interest is the fact that the wordless book was acceptable in children’s literature: as kids we were exposed to reading wordlessly, but it was something we were supposed to grow out of. Found images for this sort of experiment did not come only from genrebased, technical or journalistic publications. Derek Pell’s Assassination Rhapsody (1989) used a 1500-page government-generated document – the Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (1964), otherwise known as the Warren Report – as source for not only graphic

Figure 5.4 From Max Ernst, ‘Quatrième Cahier: Mercredi’ (‘Fourth Book: Wednesday’), Une semaine de bonté ou Les sept éléments capitaux (A Week of Kindness or the Seven Deadly Elements), 1934 Source: Ernst (1976: 130–131).


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Figure 5.5 Derek Pell, Assassination Rhapsody, 1989 Source: Pell (1989: 50–51).

images, but also the collaged text (Figure 5.5). Pell’s collection of Oulipoinspired stories and poems was variously entertaining, gruesome and ironic, but its main impact was the suggestion that by making different fictions out of the Commission’s comprehensive report, the author revealed fictions contained in the report itself. In this way, the cut-up re-orchestration method, which seems like such fun in other contexts, here took on political significance and became deadly serious.

Original images The 1980s saw a greater number of textual/visual works find their way to publication. Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School (1984) collaged textual elements together – narrative, playscript, poetry, etc. – but also included the author’s hand-drawn lettering, illustrations and dream maps (Figure 5.6). Some of Acker’s artwork was considered pornographic, and the book was banned in two countries (South Africa and Germany). Equally shocking, perhaps, was the idea that a mainstream publisher should agree to publish the seemingly untrained doodling of an indulgent, feisty author! But this was a breakthrough. There is a delightful sense of the do-it-yourself

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Figure 5.6 Kathy Acker, Blood and Guts in High School, 1984 Source: Acker (1984: 152–153).

about Acker’s work, where the vibe of a no-holds-barred young author comes through. And additionally, there is for the reader a marvellous intimacy with her deeply thought writing processes. The section titled ‘The World’ (Acker, 1984: 140–165) is profound and difficult. Being able to follow its tracings in the graphic/textual marks of its author is an unusual privilege. Acker’s work harked back not only to illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages, where the scribe made personal marks on the page but, more than that, to the author’s original manuscript work. The reader here came into more direct contact with the author’s pen; the reader was not kept at so many removes by the publishing process as is normal. Much has been written about the comic book and its migration from low to high culture in the late 20th century in the hands of artists such as Will Eisner, Frank Miller and Alan Moore, and graphics-oriented writers like Neil Gaiman (so I will not dwell on this very large topic). Significant to the development of visual elements in the novel, nevertheless, is Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (1973–1991). The first volume of Maus (1986), published after previous serialization, is acknowledged as being among the first graphic literary novels. Maus took a subject (the Holocaust) whose seriousness is normally associated with the most intellectual and moral levels of reading, treated it with deep insight and fully developed characterization,


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and expressed it as a comic strip. Thus Maus attracted serious international literary attention. To read Maus is probably the most effective way to convince oneself that visual and text modes are equal in their ability to describe and analyze the most moving issues in human experience, and also that they work astonishingly well together. The rise of the literary use of graphics in fiction in the late 20th century clearly underlies the new wave of multimodal paper publishing as epitomized in 21st-century works by Sebald, Foer, Reif, Olsen, etc. Another offshoot of this has been the new interest in the publication of reworked graphic versions of classic novels. Enterprising studio-publishers such as Visual Editions and The Publishing Lab have produced re-imagined, visually rich versions of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (in prototype form), The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Ulysses, and others. These developments recognize the multi-platform nature of publishing now and in the future, where novels will be increasingly produced for electronic delivery and paper together.

Maps and fiction There is a long tradition of maps accompanying fiction. Sir Thomas More’s imaginary island in Utopia (1516) was introduced with a panoramic map. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) provided phony cartographic evidence for the fantastic places Lemuel Gulliver visited (Figure 5.7). And maps were produced for Thomas Hardy’s novels to portray his semi-fictional county of Wessex. The idea of supplying a map for a fiction was not just to locate the work in a geographic setting and thus give the fiction a suggested basis in reality. Maps also provided a spatiality to reading which could be interpreted at a metaphoric level to give visual dimension to the spiritual or psychological journey being undertaken in the work. John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) is the classic example of an allegorical journey through a fictional setting meant to represent the path of life, its spiritual challenges, and the ultimate arrival at a glorious destination (Figure 5.8). The map as provided with Bunyan’s tale might not seem convincing to us today – there are many blank spaces on it. In fact, Bunyan’s 17th- and 18th-century readers were familiar with this kind of map in reality – accounts of explorations in still ‘unknown’ parts of the world were typically accompanied by charts showing only the features observed along the pioneering pathway taken (cf. the largely absent Australia in Swift’s map). The Pilgrim’s Progress map perfectly corresponded with the limited vision of the exploring character (and reader) making their way in life for the first (and only) time.

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Figure 5.7 Map by Hermann Moll from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, 1726. Lilliput is shown in the Indian Ocean near Sumatra and (mainly unmapped) Australia Source: Lilliput.png.

Examples of semi-fictional settings, where a fictional world is superimposed over the real world, were described in maps in novels by Sherwood Anderson and William Faulkner. Apart from other experiments the writers pursued in these novels, they also investigated how fiction is overlaid across fact to give the literary novel its experiential and educative power.


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Figure 5.8 Engraving from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, 1778. This fold-out map allowed the reader to follow Pilgrim’s journey through the fictional landscape as the plot progressed Source:

Anderson’s panoramic map of the fictional village of Winesburg, Ohio hovers disconcertingly over the landscape of the actual town of Clyde, Ohio where (by Google maps, at least) any reader can go and stand on the corner of (more recent) Main and Buckeye with the railroad crossing up ahead (Figure 5.9). Knowing that Clyde is where Anderson grew up, we can walk, like the little Google man, in the fictional streets of the book, to get some idea of the three-dimensional feel of the place. William Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County closely resembles Lafayette County in Mississippi and ‘his county seat of Jefferson resembles the real county seat of Oxford down to the details of their respective courthouse squares’ (Ryden, 1993: 46). Faulkner drew the original map (1936) himself, and later revised it (see Figure 5.10). Famously, he added that he was the ‘Sole Owner and Proprietor’ of the map, and indeed the fictional county itself as superimposed over the real one. It provided a geographical trace of

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Figure 5.9 Map from the first edition of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, 1919 Source: Wikimedia Commons: Winesburg,_Ohio.jpg.

the settings and plots for his novels, and oriented the reader among the historical, topographical and cultural realities of the actual world. Strangely, I think, seeing these maps provides a special experience for anyone who has read Faulkner’s novels previously: a warm re-engagement with the fictional worlds – itself a kind of proprietorial ownership – passed on to the reader by the writer. Seeing the novels ‘visually’ in this way, by identifying with their locales transferred imaginatively to three dimensions, shows us the degree to which we implicate visuals in our readings of text not just as ‘imagined’ experience but as a fuller sensory ‘felt’ experience.

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Figure 5.10 Left, Faulkner’s original map for Absalom, Absalom!, 1936; right, a later revision he made for Malcolm Cowley’s The Portable Faulkner, 1946 Source: and

The most celebrated map associated with any work of fiction is the nonfictional, everyday, purchased-at-the-newsagent map of central Dublin. In this notable case, the plotline of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922) is not so much imposed on the map as that it represents, even replaces, the map. No other work of fiction is so comprehensively identified with its real-life setting. The parades, rituals and re-enactments carried out in Dublin’s streets every 16 June (Bloomsday – the 1904 day of the novel’s setting) are evidence of how powerfully a fiction can impinge on reality. In each of these works, the map is a page read differently from the text page. Its spatial engagement involves reading in a different mode. But the fusion of reality and imagination that writers such as Swift and Faulkner aimed for is now more significantly a part of our general literacy. In the 1990s, hypertext fictions such as Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl (1995) used the page as a manipulable map to perform the reading of the work itself. In the 21st century our familiarity with multimodal reading of the screen page

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allows us to acknowledge that the novel and its map – in some cases a fiction and a non-fiction – can be read together, happily. Thus, with the app version of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse (2012), for example, we read the maps, the histories and the fiction as one whole experience, as is true also for our reading of the paper-based map/narrative collection in a box, Where You Are: A Book of Maps That Will Leave You Completely Lost (Dyer et al., 2013).

Experiments with Sound and the Page Two literary forms – poetry and the playscript – are understood to be notational in the sense that, as with a music score, the marks on the page provide a set of directions for a performance in another mode, involving sound. The relationship between the playscript as text and its performance is assumed, while that between the poem on the page and the poetry reading performance is less immediate, but poetry still has speaking, and the breath of the speaker, in its DNA. Strangely, though, prose is not associated with performance – at least, the performance is not presumed from the text on the page. The voice expected for the ‘performance’ of a novel is the voice in the reader’s head, which produces no sound at all. The following section traces experiments where cross-artform practice sought to bring together sound and text in prose narrative. When I was at university I bought a copy of Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman for one of my English courses. It was the sixth reprint of the edition published by the Odyssey Press in New York in 1940 (I bought it new in 1967). It is still a handsome volume despite its battered spine, dog-eared pages and my undergraduate marginalia. On p. 69 Uncle Toby whistles ‘half a dozen bars of Lillabullero’ – a political song of the 17th and 18th centuries. On the following page there is the score of the tune by Henry Purcell (1658–1695) with lyrics by Lord Wharton (1648– 1715), which takes up the whole page except for a few lines of the continuation of the footnote from the previous page (Sterne, 1940: 69–70). While as a student I relished the contentious black, marbled and blank pages, my apprentice reading allowed me to think that the music score was one of Sterne’s original inclusions too. To my mind at the time, so caught up in the Beatles and John Lennon’s books, etc., I thought the music page was Sterne’s most inspired innovation. It was a long time later, with clearly better reading skills, that I discovered the score page was really part of the continuing footnote which editors had inserted some time in the 19th century. I was very disappointed. I still wish it were Sterne who brilliantly introduced text’s crossover into sound along with his adventures into the visual.


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Nevertheless, still youthfully Sterne-inspired in 1978, I published a story which used a phrase by the jazz fusion group Weather Report as an epigraph (Figure 5.11). The haunting passage of Joe Zawinul’s music had been my initial inspiration for the story, and it had been in my head the whole time I was writing the piece (in fact, I played it on my record player as I wrote). I wanted it to be stuck in the reader’s mind too, running throughout their reading as a sort of soundtrack. In wanting words and music to coalesce, I tried to convey the idea that the story’s single narrative was formed by two readings done together, music + text, by having the music as epigraph, as initiating thought to be kept in mind throughout. Only in this way did I think a fully atmospheric and emotional reading of the piece could occur. Later I discovered the prisoners’ song in the restored text version of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (2013), originally written in 1962 (Figure 5.12). Like Sterne’s Lillabullero, the song (and other music too) is

Figure 5.11 Krauth story with music notation epigraph, 1978 Source: Krauth (1978: 22).

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Figure 5.12 Prisoners’ song with music notation in restored text version of A Clockwork Orange, 2013 Source: Burgess (2013: 90–91).

essential to the atmosphere and ironies of the scene in Burgess’s novel. At least those able to read music can supply their own soundtrack. In 1952 John Cage had shocked the music establishment with his silent work for orchestra, 4’33’, which of course showed that silence wasn’t silent at all: silence was in fact impossible, and even supposed nothingness was packed with meaning. The original score for 4’33’ was not a blank page: it used music staffs with measures and looked like sheet music without the notes. Cage’s subsequent versions of the manuscript used hand-drawn graphics initially; then he produced a typewritten set of instructions, a sort of minimalist text (see Solomon, 2002). In his illustrious career Cage continued taking the musical notation out of music scores and putting it back in multimodal ways, producing scores as narrative and fragmented texts, as line drawings and paintings, as collages, etc. (see, for example, Sauer, 2009: 44). While Cage approached the intersection of sound and the page from the music composer’s direction, writers attempted the same with textual frames of reference. Samuel Beckett’s experimental novel Watt (1953) used many outlandish tricks with language, logic and mathematics. Inevitably his experiments were also about the music of language. Beckett included a


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musical score of conversations overheard by the main character from afar while lying in a ditch at night (Figure 5.13). The voices were divided into soprano, alto, tenor and bass lines which formed ‘a mixed choir’ (Beckett, 1963: 32). Confronted with this musical notation in a novel, the reader is invited to hear language differently, and to conjure up conversation in a different way. The fact that the author’s transcription of the voices renders them nonsensical as a conversation reinforces the fact that what Watt is hearing is being changed in his own head. He is making music out of talk rather than making meaning. Of a similar nature, but taken from a different perspective, Watt (again lying in a ditch) hears the croaking of three frogs, and catalogues the mathematical/musical frequency of their frog-song (1970: 135–137) (Figure 5.14). The reader can perform this script as part of the reading. It demands moving onto a different sort of prose-reading path where taking notice of the beat becomes essential. It is more like reading poetry in forms where scansion is important. The chorus of frogs croaking at different regular intervals goes through a full cycle from a synchronous moment to, 121 beats later, the next synchronous moment. Writing the frogs’ chorus in this way challenges traditional text and traditional reading. It makes us think more deeply about

Figure 5.13 Samuel Beckett, Watt, 1953 Source: Beckett (1963: 32–33).

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Figure 5.14 Samuel Beckett, Watt, 1953 Source: Beckett (1963: 135–137).

the details of reality. Rather than there being the simple narrative statement: ‘Watt could hear the frogs croaking’ – a textual cliché which produces in the reader no sound of frogs croaking at all – there is a score for performance of the croaking: a soundtrack made of text. Brion Gysin’s name is linked with that of William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and other Beat Generation writers who experimented with radical ideas in post-WWII America and Europe. Apart from working with Burroughs on several ‘cut-up’ writing projects – e.g. Naked Lunch (1959) and Nova Express (1964) – Gysin used paper ‘cut up’ to produce his own writing and visual artworks. But he went further, he experimented with cutting up and reassembling reel-to-reel audiotape. The audio tape recorder was invented in the 19th century, but not until the 1950s was it popular as a household entertainment device. A sense of the technological (lack of) sophistication of post-WWII times may be gauged by the fact that people enjoyed sitting at home of an evening taping each other’s voices and replaying them. It was a novelty to hear oneself speak. In commercial broadcast, audiotape was edited like film, by splicing – a method of physical cutting and reassembling. Gysin saw that the ‘cut up’ and ‘collage’ potential of the audiotape could be applied to creative works. Gysin’s major written collage work, ‘The Poem of Poems’, was made to show Burroughs how the audiotape cut-up method could work: I suggested to William that we should use only the best, only the highcharged material: King James’ translation of the Song of Songs of Solomon,

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Eliot’s translation of Anabasis by St.-John Perse, Shakespeare’s sugared Sonnets and a few lines from The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, about his mescaline experiences. (Gysin, 2001: 102) Here are four lines from Gysin’s poem. They show how in editing the pieces of tape together he was aware of the multimodal concepts he dealt with, crossing voice with design to produce text on paper: Let me hear thy voice, that revelation of the wilderness. Arise my love, How frail our shelter of green leaves, tropical leaves transported in the light of wine, rendered in blue pigment like an articulate painting. (Gysin, 2001: 104) The sources Gysin used included poetry and prose works, but his refashioned outcome was put on the page as poetry which did not abandon aesthetics and traditional semantics, as the Dadaists had often done with their collages. In comparison, Burroughs’ cut-ups were often less well mannered: ‘“Blitzkrieg the citadel of enlightenment!”’ Burroughs wrote to Gysin in 1960, then added later: ‘“It all depends on the result”’ (Gysin, 2001: 127). Gysin had a lighter, more musical, touch. In the 1960s John Barth also suggested audio experiments with his collection of short stories Lost in the Funhouse (1968), having the subtitle: Fiction for Print, Tape, Live Voice. The subtitle indicated a questioning of prose-writing’s natural association with print, and moved it towards greater involvement with other modes and technologies associated with sound. Part of the aim was to explore the idea that new technologies could tell us more about the possibilities of narrative and of prose. (In the 1960s the new technologies included the tape recorder, and stereophonic sound which had newly replaced monophonic recording.) In his author’s note of 1968, Barth indicated that some of the 14 stories ‘take the print medium for granted but lose or gain nothing in oral recitation’. Others ‘would lose part of their point in any except printed form’. One story ‘was meant for either print or recorded authorial voice, but not for live or non-authorial voice’; another ‘will make no sense unless heard in live or recorded voices, male and female, or read as if so heard’; and yet another ‘depends for clarity on the reader’s eye and may be said to have been composed for “printed voice”’ (Barth, 1988: xi). One of the most challenging stories in the collection, entitled ‘Title’, … makes somewhat separate but equally valid senses in several media: print, monophonic recorded authorial voice, stereophonic ditto in dialogue with itself, live authorial voice, live ditto in dialogue with

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monophonic ditto aforementioned, and live ditto interlocutory with stereophonic et cetera, my own preference. … (Barth, 1988: xi–xii) Humourless reviewers accused Barth of pretentiousness in his claims for the experimental parameters of Lost in the Funhouse (Barth, 1988: 203), but in the context of a history of the literary text dealing with new technologies, and learning about itself and its possibilities from them, the reviewers missed the point. If you read Barth’s stories paying attention to his authorial directions regarding print and recording, authorial and non-authorial voice, mono and stereo sound, you read in a different way – a way involving awareness of the multimodal possibilities of the prose – something Barth was attuned to but his critics clearly were not. Each story investigated an aspect of the complex matter of voice in print prose – how it is produced, where it is produced from, how it can be broken up, layered, denatured, warped, echoed, intensified, amplified and bounced around. Critics called for Barth to produce the tapes, as if this evidence would somehow prove the validity of his experiment. In his 1969 author’s note he said: … the tapes there alluded to are not at this writing commercially available, may never be, and I judged it distracting to publish the tape-stories in reading-script format. Nevertheless the [original] ‘Note’ means in good faith exactly what it says, both as to the serial nature of the fourteen pieces and as to the ideal media of their presentation: the regnant idea is the unpretentious one of turning as many aspects of the fiction as possible – the structure, the narrative viewpoint, the means of presentation, in some instances the process of composition and/or recitation as well as of reading or listening – into dramatically relevant emblems of the theme. (Barth, 1988: 203) Barth’s Funhouse is a textbook on experimentation, demonstrating how deeply creative writing can research, and how many research aims a single work can have on its agenda. Among the many things about the book that would offend late-1960s reviewers, possibly the most shocking, was Barth’s use of the exegetical inside the fiction narrative. There are many examples of this in stories of different narrative kinds in the collection. Here is one, the opening lines of the title story ‘Lost in the Funhouse’: For whom is the funhouse fun? Perhaps for lovers. For Ambrose it is a place of fear and confusion. He has come to the seashore with his family for the holiday, the occasion of their visit is Independence Day, the most important secular holiday of the United States of America. A single straight underline is the

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manuscript mark for italic type, which in turn is the printed equivalent to oral emphasis of words and phrases as well as the customary type for titles of complete works, not to mention. . . . (Barth, 1988: 72, original italics) There is no gap indicated between the fiction and the metafictional intrusion. This broke so many rules about fiction, Barth invited negative reviews from late-1960s US critics, and got them. A ‘thoroughly confusing work’, the New York Times said in 1968 (Davenport, 1998). But by using the author’s intruded ‘print’ voice in stories designed to be read by the author, Barth insisted on a new and particular kind of life for text. Ironically, while his almost namesake Barthes was suggesting ‘the death of the author’ in the process of the reader reading the printed text (Barthes, 1967), Barth advocated the opposite, giving the author a living voice. Part of this process involved the Funhouse collection’s cyclic return to the traditions of Homeric storytelling. When Barth was not exegetically exposing the bones of slick narrative devices or employing narrators in more traditional print ways, he was adopting the voices of storytellers from myth – Echo, Menelaus, and others. In this he emphasized the fact that his experiments about voices issuing from new-fangled stereophonic speakers were less an attack on the printed authorial voice and more a returning of it to its storytelling roots. In 1976 Raymond Federman took the experimentation further with his novel Take It or Leave It – a book ‘to be read aloud either standing or sitting’ (Federman, 1997: Title page). Called by its author a ‘recitation’, it has no page numbers for its hundreds of pages – these ‘have been removed at the discretion of the author’ because ‘all sections in this tale are interchangeable’. So this is the novel as talk, a storytelling performance where the telling (as the reader’s voice replaces the teller’s) can rearrange the elements as they wish. By playing with voice, Federman’s novel ends up in much the same place occupied by Saporta’s Composition No 1 (1963) or Cortázar’s Hopscotch (1967), except those writers arrived there by playing with narrative structure and the construction of the book. The experiments with sound and print undertaken by Federman, Barth, Burroughs, Gysin and Beckett – building on the earliest radical performances and sound poems of the Dadaists – led to works employing new music technologies in the 1990s such as the narratives produced by Laurie Anderson on a tape-bow violin where a strip of audiotape (having a sentence pre-recorded on it) was passed over an audiohead on the violin to make narrative. Fittingly, Anderson’s song/story ‘Sharkey’s Night’ was recorded with William S. Burroughs doing the reading. Later developments of these narrativeproducing techniques used MIDI-based technology and sampling. Today, well beyond the strictures of the audiobook, the possibilities of incorporating sound and text into multimodal compositions are seemingly endless.


Experiments in Writing for Children

The Value of Play Writing for children is a special case in the history of radical creative writing. It is special because, from the 1960s onward, innovation and risk taking were welcomed, not sidelined, in the publishing mainstream. Educationalists had for two centuries developed strategies which approved of play, venturesome thinking and the development of the full range of senses as key elements of learning theory. And while educational theory was on side, so too was economic practicality. Innovative children’s books, including Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat (1957), Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1963) and many others, were massive bestsellers. In the world of children’s literature, the radical and the popular were on the same (accountant’s) page. Parents loved buying quirky, radical picture storybooks, paperengineered books, waterproof books, etc. for their children, and school teachers approved of them. Possibly the shared delight adults derived from reading such books with their children was in part created by the fact that this sort of reading was not available to them in the conventional mainstream of adult reading. And it needs to be added, too, that writing for children – especially after the 1960s – involved the talents of some extraordinary writers whose capacities to think laterally and break with conventional expectations was astounding. Histories of children’s literature cite John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile, or On Education (1763 [1762]) as key works in educational philosophy which shaped the development of books written for children. In contrast to ideas prevalent among 17th-century educators, who considered each child was born corrupted by 137


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Original Sin while education’s responsibility was to rectify and ‘purify’ them, Locke advocated that the child was more usefully thought of as a ‘blank slate’ which could be filled in a civilizing manner through the child’s own observation and experience undertaken under instruction in a rationally disciplined way. This kind of experiential learning was potentially not a oneway instructional process, and involved the value of play to make learning more enjoyable and effective. Rousseau took Locke’s concept further, and turned it upside down. Each child, he said, was less a ‘blank slate’ and more a ‘noble savage’, her mind not a neutral field for sowing the seeds of education but a more wise space already, in danger of being tainted by civilizing processes. For Rousseau, the child’s innate capacities should be allowed to develop fully; instruction and learning were two-way processes where the child was the most significant contributor. For Rousseau, a child’s play was a key element of learning. In Émile … Rousseau [took] the view that play was instinctive and the means provided by nature for growth of the body as well as of the senses that were so important to Locke’s empiricism. Rousseau cited Locke, approvingly for the most part, throughout his book but when he came to consider the relation between play and education he turned only to Plato to support his belief that children should be taught through play. Rousseau thought that in all the games that children played, there could be found material for instruction. He held that what children learned from each other in play was worth far more than what they learned in the classroom. In contrast to the Puritan view, Rousseau did not hold that play was idleness or a waste of time … Rousseau’s thoughts on play were set within a position that was hostile to conventional schooling with its emphasis on books and telling pupils what to do. (Brehony, 2008) These ideas focused on education for the whole of life (not just the spiritual life). Their emphasis on interaction with the here and now (not just the life to come) and the importance of play (as educative stimulant and investigation) was reflected in the early text books which replaced religious primers as aids to learning. The promotion of problem-solving strategies, creative and logical thinking, and multimodal reading – through activities which increasingly prioritized the child’s viewpoint and playful investigation – were evident in gradual developments in children’s educational books in the 18th and 19th centuries. This culminated in the burgeoning of children’s literature in the second half of the 20th century with highly entertaining books which

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never lost their underlying mission to educate the child. Later in the 20th century, experimental writers like Italo Calvino recognized the value of play in the writing process: It is the childish delight at combinatorial play that induces the painter to try out patterns of lines and colours and the poet to attempt combination of words. At a certain stage something clicks, and one of the combinations obtained by its own mechanisms, independently of any search for meaning or effect on some other level, takes on an unexpected sense or produces an unforeseen effect that consciousness could not have achieved intentionally. (Calvino, 1975: 79, my italics) This chapter looks at three strands which indicate books for children as a major site of pioneering radical experimentation in creative writing: experiments with visuals and the page; experiments with language, sound and the page; and current experiments with the book for young people. In evolving particularly to educate for all aspects of the individual’s life, books for children were concerned with educating the senses as well as the mind, and also with how the matrix of senses interacted with the intellect. While adult fiction evolved from the mid-18th century onwards by sharpening its text-based, intellectual focus and not its multimodal possibilities, fiction for children developed writing’s radical possibilities much more adventurously. After the mid-20th century, highly experimental children’s works were part of mainstream publishing – a situation not matched by adult publishing until 50 years later. In children’s fiction the always adult writers have sought to entertain children while having themselves some sort of moral purpose or educational value in mind – society has insisted on it. (Books not considered wholesome and uplifting are pilloried by the children’s reading police.) On the other hand, literary writers for adults have had similar aims, but the idea of ‘educating’ the adult cannot be admitted to. The adult novel must not appear to instruct; its moral purpose must be subtly dramatized, otherwise it will be damned as didactic and preaching. Child readers are sophisticated too, but the societal view is that a moral and educative purpose is allowed to be ‘clear’ for children’s reading – that is, clear for the very young, gradating down to moderately clear for the young adult reader. The scrutiny of society which ensures that writing for children authentically educates for life allowed for, ironically, greater radicality in children’s literature than in adult literature. Experiments with the sound of words, the look of the page and the paper engineering possibilities of the book occurred as ideas about educating the senses developed. Experiments with the book happened logically as writers sought greater tactile and interactive


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involvement in reading, giving the child a fuller sense-oriented experience of life itself in the reading process. The field of writing for children encouraged play and investigation in more modes and on more levels than were readily approached by writers for adults. A notable comparison between writing for children and the history of radical writing for adults occurs in the case of the Surrealists. Building from the childish connotations of Dada (French for a child’s hobbyhorse, an English child’s word for father, etc.) and perhaps some of the amusingly childish acts the Dadaists performed, Surrealism formalized play, and games, as literary and artistic endeavour. The Surrealists initiated the most radically liberating critique of reason of the [20th] century. Their brilliant investigations were conducted through art and polemic, manifesto and demonstration, love and politics. But most especially and remarkably, it was through games, play, techniques of surprise and methodologies of the fantastic that they subverted modes of enquiry, and undermined the complacent certainties of the reasonable and respectable. Playful procedures and systemic stratagems provided keys to unlock the door to the unconscious and to release the visual and verbal. … They borrowed children’s games, [and] invented techniques to exploit the unpredictable outcomes of chance and accident … to free words and images from the constraints of rational and discursive order. . . . (Brotchie & Gooding, 1995: 10) Children’s writers wrote in ways similar to Surrealist, Oulipo and other experimental writers for adults, by using constraints. The big difference was that the constraints on children’s writers were mandatory due to age capability in reading and other stages of development. For adult writers, constraint experiments were elective, and often treated as rebellious games. For children’s writers, the constraints were required in order to get published and, ironically, to break with them was considered experimental in children’s publishing. For both groups, words were constrained as part of the process: the children’s writer had to match word difficulty to reading age levels; certain words and styles were unacceptable at particular ages; and the numbers of words in a book had to match reading capability. The Oulipo practitioner, for example, might have seen these, respectively, as exercises in constraint on the source of words, constraint on style and constraint on the number of words. For children’s writers these were not games or experiments but simply what was required for readership. The breadth and complexity of these constraints don’t always occur to adult writers setting out on writing for children for the first time.

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If one simple game characterizes radical experimentation in all the arts, it is the Surrealists’ Exquisite Corpse game, based on earlier family games (called ‘Petits papiers’ in French, ‘Consequences’ in English). Played in either written or graphic modes, it involves folding a paper and having several participants compose a phrase or picture on separate sections, causing a narrative or image to build up from non-sequiturs. The most famous result of the Exquisite Corpse game (from which it gets its name) is the sentence written by a Surrealist group (possibly Jacques Prévert, André Breton, Yves Tanguy, Benjamin Péret and Marcel Duhamel) in Paris in 1925: The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine. (Breton, n.d. [1948]) For comparison, Figure 6.1 shows a 1928 pictorial outcome of the game. Breton provided a history of what Surrealist writers were doing with their time at 54 rue du Chateau in 1925: When the conversation – on the day’s events or proposals of amusing or scandalous intervention in the life of the times – began to pall, we would turn to games; written games at first, contrived so that elements of language attacked each other in the most paradoxical manner possible, and so that human communication, misled from the start, was thrown into the mood most amenable to adventure. From then on no unfavourable prejudice (in fact, quite the contrary) was shown against childhood games, for which we were rediscovering the old enthusiasm, although considerably amplified. (Breton, n.d. [1948])

Figure 6.1 Four-part Exquisite Corpse drawing by Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro and Max Morise, 1928 Source:

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Of course, in the first half of the 20th century, a group of grown-up men wanting to change the world could hardly be taken seriously by attempting to do it through child’s play. As Breton put it three decades later: If there is one activity in Surrealism which has most invited the derision of imbeciles, it is our persistent playing of games, which can be found throughout most of our publications over the last thirty-five years. … [T]he urgent need we felt to do away with the old antinomies that dominate work and leisure, ‘wisdom’ and ‘folly’, etc. – such as action and dream, past and future, sanity and madness, high and low, and so on – disposed us not to spare that of the serious and the non-serious (games). (Breton, quoted in Brotchie & Gooding, 1995: 137, italics in the original) But after the publication of Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture (in German in 1939), the Surrealists felt at last vindicated. Breton wrote: Luckily the recent publication of Johan Huizinga’s work Homo Ludens should make all the leech-like aren’t-you-ashamed-of-yourselves-at-yourage crew retire into their worm-eaten shell. This work demonstrates in fact, that the existence of the game, a free activity if ever there was one, ‘affirms in a permanent way … our situation in the cosmos’. . . . It is clear that to shut oneself off from game-playing … is to undermine the best of one’s own humanity. (Breton, quoted in Brotchie & Gooding, 1995: 138, italics in the original) Exquisite Corpse questioned linear and framed logics as did Buñuel and Dalí’s film Un Chien Andalou (1928) and many other radical adult experiments. Escape from the strictures of linearity in narrative and framing of the image appealed to the un-serious freedoms of the child’s perspective and capacities. In the 20th century and beyond, children’s literature – especially the picture book, which was aimed at the youngest levels of readers – pursued the Exquisite Corpse experiment with gusto. In the split-page, or ‘mix and match’, spiral-bound picture books shown in Figures 6.2 and 6.3, children were able to ‘edit’ the work themselves, producing images and narratives according to their own exploration and amusement. The point of the child’s play in these still fascinating books is that humans love the opportunity to work with collage. Putting the fragments of the world together in new ways in order to learn and produce new understandings about living is the project of life itself. Multimodal reading employs the capacities inherent in the Exquisite Corpse book.

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Figure 6.2 ‘Peltopus’ from Sara Ball, Por-gua-can, 1985 Source: Ball (1985).

Figure 6.3 ‘Jack piggybacks tropically’, from Carin Berger, All Mixed Up, 2006 Source: Berger (2006).

Experiments with Visuals and the Page The history of children’s literature illustration includes many attempts by illustrators to escape the static nature of the printed image and replace it with the experience of movement. This is the longest standing experimental focus in children’s publishing. From the emblem books and


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chapbooks of the 16th and 17th centuries, through Robert Sayers’ early paper engineering ‘metamorphosis’ books and the illustrations to John Newbery’s ground-breaking publications in the 18th and 19th centuries, to later 20th-century work by children’s writers such as Maurice Sendak, Jan Ormerod, the Intervisual Communications Group, and many others, there may be traced more than three centuries of concern to incorporate movement into the picture book illustration. Prior to the invention of moving film, attempts at animation in illustrations for children were not directed at fictionalizing (as in the talking-animal cartoon) but at de-fictionalizing, by bringing greater reality to the images of the world which children’s books sought to teach about. A brief survey of images from the last three centuries indicates a concern to give greater ‘life’ and ‘lifelikeness’ to illustration through movement. Two concepts were utilized: the introduction of a time element to the static picture; and the incorporation of mobility through paper engineering. Both concepts focused on providing action to characters and settings. The chapbooks (cheap popular books sold by itinerant vendors) of the 17th century were one of the precursor genres to children’s literature. In the chapbook illustration in Figure 6.4 from Tom Thumb His Life and Death (c. 1665), the figure of Tom Thumb appears three times, indicating three incidents in the narrative: the hero almost being eaten by a cow (partly out of frame at lower left), then sitting on the pudding-bowl (at the right), and then being carried away by a bird (above left). Within one picture frame there are three time frames. The aim of the Tom Thumb illustration is to suggest advancement in the narrative and movement over a period of time, i.e. action. Almost a century later, in John Newbery’s A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (1744), widely considered the first publication specifically for children, the illustration in Figure 6.5 appeared. Analysis of the caption indicates that the two figures depicted on the hopscotch grid (being watched by a spectator) are representations of a single person at different stages of taking a turn. Within one picture frame there are two time frames. The aim of this illustration is, again, to suggest movement over a period of time. Paralleling these attempts to enliven the static image within the frame are the mid-18th century ‘turn-up’ or ‘metamorphosis’ books by the English printer Robert Sayer, where paper engineering invited the reader to manipulate the page and thereby provide the movement. Sayer suggested narrative development within a scene by drawing and printing its characters twice, then assembling the book so that the reader could access both aspects of the scene, the ‘before’ and ‘after’ (Figure 6.6).

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Figure 6.4 From the chapbook Tom Thumb His Life and Death, c. 1665 Source: Sutherland & Arbuthnot (1991: 56).


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Figure 6.5 John Newbery, ‘Hop-Scotch’, from A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, 1744 Source:

The alteration of the image through physical movement of the page predates the discovery of the moving image in flip-books, the scientific toy called the zoetrope (sometimes called the wheel of life) and film. But it was by further developments in paper engineering that children’s book illustration gained access to subtleties of gesture and facial expression which allowed analysis of very specific human movement.

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Figure 6.6 One of Robert Sayer’s lift-the-fl ap books, Queen Mab, or, The tricks of Harlequin, 1771 Source:

The greatest innovator in the field of the moveable picture book was the German illustrator Lothar Meggendorfer. He introduced hitherto undreamedof fine detail in animation into illustrations for children’s books. Meggendorfer made his first book Living Pictures (1878) as a Christmas present for his son. Over the following quarter-century his books, although expensive, sold in the thousands and were translated into English and other languages. Maurice Sendak said of him: [Meggendorfer] was the supreme master of animation: every gesture, both animal and human, is conveyed with uncanny precision via the primitive but – in his hands – versatile medium of movable paper parts. But the pictures do more than move; they come passionately to life. … Meggendorfer catches the essential gesture in his moving pictures and that is his genius. He grasped the potential of the medium and proceeded to enlarge and deepen the child’s visual pleasure in a way that probably could not be duplicated. … Meggendorfer never condescended to children. He granted them … a lively intellect and cultivated visual taste. He knew that children observe life more shrewdly than adults. … (Sendak, 1985: 1) In Figure 6.7, Meggendorfer’s iron and cue go back and forth, as does the threatened cat’s tail; the heads of tailor, player and onlooker move subtly and approvingly; the player’s cocked foot and the tailor’s smoothing hand


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Figure 6.7 Two tab-pull pages by Lothar Meggendorfer: left, ‘The Tailor’, from Comic Actors, 1890; right, ‘The Pool Player’, from Scenes in the Life of a Masher, 1894 Source: Meggendorfer (1985: 10, 16).

indicate the delicacy and eccentricity of the characters’ techniques. These movable images were accompanied by the verses: The Tailor

The Pool Player

Back and forth the iron goes Guided by Mr. Snip. He’s worked so hard to make the coat And hopes that it will fit.

This fellow likes the game of pool, He claims he’s pretty good. Just look at how he aims the cue, Exactly as he should!

The tailor works with special care, Moving the iron about. He wants to make the coat look grand And get the wrinkles out.

He gives one foot a little lift To balance out his stroke, And though the others smile a lot, He knows it’s not a joke.

The kitten watches Mr. Snip And knows from lessons learned To move her tail about as well Or else it might get burned!

Thoughtfully he taps the ball At just the proper spot, And everyone agrees he made A simply marvelous shot! (Meggendorfer, 1985: 9, 15)

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Meggendorfer’s works had family appeal and their instructional element, sometimes expressed in gentle satire which applied as much to the playfully movable pictures as to the verse, was accessible to children and to adults. Each is a study of human behaviour with an emphasis on reading the significance of gesture and facial expression. Meggendorfer’s aim was to teach the readable significances communicated by subtle movement (what we now call ‘body language’). Thus, in ‘The Tailor’, the movements of the picture, reinforced by the written text beside it, introduce a multimodal reading relating conscientiousness, determination and meticulous attention to detail which is shown in the body language of the tailor and placed in the context of survival as depicted in the cat’s tail movement. The visual text suggests success in the adult world through pursuit of excellence in work. By contrast, the satirical treatment of ‘The Pool Player’ shows Meggendorfer teaching how to read foolishness and self-preoccupation through body stance and gesture, especially in the eccentric tic of the player’s foot caressing the table leg. In the second half of the 20th century, experiments undertaken with the illustrated page of the children’s picture book flourished. There are so many examples in mainstream publishing for children, I need mention only a few: the famous varying margins and wordless pages in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1963); the see-through holes in Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969) and Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s Peepo! (1981); the lift-the-flap pages in the mega-selling books by Eric Hill (Where’s Spot?, 1980) (Figure 6.8), Rod Campbell (Dear Zoo, 1982) and many others; the classic wordless page books by Jan Ormerod, Sunshine (1981) and Moonlight (1982), written as stop-action film-frames to be read like film; and the Ahlbergs’ ground-breaking The Jolly Postman, or Other People’s Letters (1986) where pages have become envelopes addressed to nursery characters containing letters which can be taken out, read and replaced – not only a

Figure 6.8 Lift-the-fl ap spread from Eric Hill, Where’s Spot?, 1980 Source:


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significant paper-engineering development but also a significant development in the epistolary genre. And there are more still being produced, many of which date back in their radical qualities to 19th-century publishing innovation, but which also now fit with the age of the iPad book for children which animates the page through hypermedia. The page in the picture book for children has provided a space for all kinds of experimentation in language, art, design and social commentary – all made possible by continued excellent sales figures for innovative picture storybooks.

Experiments with Language, Sound and the Page Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and T.S. Eliot are recognized for experiments in language and narrative which influenced the development of writing in the early 20th century. Each wrote a book for children: Woolf produced Nurse Lugton’s Golden Thimble in 1923–1924 (published as Nurse Lugton’s Curtain in 1991), Joyce The Cat and the Devil in 1936, Eliot Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats in 1939 and Stein The World Is Round, also in 1939. Woolf’s effort is somewhat disappointing because it was rather conventional (a group of animals on a curtain come to life at night), and Joyce’s story is banal, although his Devil does speak his own nonsensical language called ‘Bellsybabble’. Eliot’s poetry about cats and their personalities is fun, and its quirkiness appeals to children in a conventional way. It seems that Woolf, Joyce and Eliot let up on their major projects when they turned to writing for children; they took a break from the hard task of changing the literature. But Stein did not. Her novelette, The World Is Round, insightfully explores the child’s delight in the sound of language and especially the repetitions and meanderings associated with the thinking voice – the language that goes on in the head. Printed in blue ink on rosy pink pages, as insisted upon by the author, Stein’s story starts: Once upon a time the world was round and you could go on it around and around. Everywhere there was somewhere and everywhere there were men women children dogs cows wild pigs little rabbits cats lizards and animals. That is the way it was. And everybody dogs cats sheep rabbits and lizards and children all wanted to tell everybody all about it and they wanted to tell all about themselves. And then there was Rose. (Stein, 2013: 1–2)

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Rose sings a song to herself: Why am I a little girl And why is my name Rose And when am I a little girl And when is my name Rose And where am I a little girl And where is my name Rose And which little girl am I am I the little girl named Rose which little girl named Rose. (Stein, 2013: 3) Stein’s reproduction of the childhood voice in the head is intimate, concise, evocative and inventive. It reflects how much children love language. They respond to words with a freshness that wears off for jaded adults in later years. Children are like connoisseurs of language: energized by its sounds and rhythms, they delight in the colours and imagery words convey. In the early 20th century, one of the few writers to pick up on this energy and channel it into writing for adults was e.e. cummings (who childishly, perhaps, refused to write his own name with capitals). He published the following poem in 1923: in Justspring when the world is mudluscious the little lame balloonman whistles


and wee

and eddieandbill come running from marbles and piracies and it’s spring when the world is puddle-wonderful the queer old balloonman whistles far and wee and bettyandisbel come dancing from hop-scotch and jump-rope and


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it’s spring and the goat-footed balloonMan whistles far and wee (cummings, 2014) cummings transposed the child’s thinking not only into sounds and imagery, but also via typography on the page: ‘eddieandbill’ and ‘bettyandisbel’ are named with breathless, innocent enthusiasm; ‘far and wee’ involves long distances, the writing shows so; and the world itself is felt as childishly pleasing – ‘mud-/luscious’ and ‘puddle-wonderful’ – taking on almost tactile qualities. This is children’s talk – you say it how it looks, sounds and feels; it is language produced by experience of the world through newly responding, unsullied senses. But the poem, in the end, is written for adults. The ‘goat-footed balloonMan’ is a Pan-figure, a Pied Piper of Adulthood. cummings’ children in 1923 were destined to move away from the world where text is also seeing, feeling and hearing … into the monomodal adult reading world. cummings’ legacy can be seen in picture books like Wayne Campbell’s What a Catastrophe! (1986), illustrated by Allan Stomann. Here the words ‘down’, ‘through’ and ‘long’ perform their meanings, and are integrated into the image through their shape and positioning on the page, and their colour. Language becomes readable through several senses. For example, the ‘l’ in ‘long’ is a green blade of grass; the word ‘through’, dressed in the same colour as the young hero, goes through the gap in the fence with him (Figure 6.9). Integrated text and illustration has been a staple of children’s books since the 1960s. Only since 2000, however, has this sophisticated way of reading been part of adult publishing. Two years before Stein published The World Is Round, Theodor Geisel (‘Dr. Seuss’) published his first book, entitled And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937). Originally motivated to produce his Dr. Seuss classics in opposition to the kind of reading experience offered by the school reading primers in the ‘Dick and Jane’ series (1927–1970), Geisel continued to develop

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Figure 6.9 Wayne Campbell, What a Catastrophe!, illustrated by Allan Stomann, 1986 Source: Campbell (1986: 3).

his alternative beginners’ reading books for as long as the Dick and Jane series continued (Figure 6.10). The Dick and Jane books are illustrated, in the sense that the image is merely a replication of the text. Here the relationship between text and image is non-interactive and non-negotiable; text and image, tellingly, occupy segregated, static zones on the page. On the other hand, Geisel’s work integrated the spaces occupied by text and image, to create a dynamic, spatially driven reading experience. To read Dick and Jane was rather like reading a set of directions in a manual – language instruction was what mattered; to read

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Figure 6.10 Left, from the Scott Foresman Dick and Jane series, 1930s; right, ‘Dr. Seuss’, One fish two fish red fish blue fish, 1960 Source:; and ‘Dr. Seuss’ (1960: n.p.).

Dr. Seuss was like reading and dreaming together – delight in language and imaginative play were what counted. Jonathan Cott reported that Geisel said of his bestselling The Cat in the Hat (1957): ‘It’s the book I’m proudest of because it had something to do with the death of the Dick and Jane primers’ (Cott, 1983: 25). Variations in typography were used to represent and emphasize the sound of language on the page, not just its spatial–textual connections, as the above examples show. The textual–spatial–verbal link was significant because writing for children was strongly aware of performance. Books for children are books for reading aloud – by parents with their progeny, by teachers with the class, and by the child herself in demonstrating her developing skills to others (and to herself). For the child to learn about language, it should be concise, evocative and inventive, constrained to the reading level. The text in a picture book can employ very few words. There are just 338 words in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, and far fewer in Eric Hill’s Where’s Spot? Clearly Sendak thought very deeply about his choice of those 338 words. Referring to the language in Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak said: It’s rhythm, it’s syncopation. It’s where you stop writing and start drawing. It’s a continuous thread – words, pictures, words, pictures – and it has a tempo, almost a metronome at the beginning, because why would children go through a book?

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So you’ve got to catch them with your metronome right from the start so they syncopate with the book. And you have children, so you know that children hum and move when they are reading a book and going – and turning pages, and looking at pictures. The timing has to be intuitive to an incredible degree. (Sendak, quoted in Woodruff, 2012) The prose and the graphics in Where the Wild Things Are both operate with the jazz syncopations that inspired Sendak in the early 1960s. But perhaps the most insightful thing Sendak says here is that the music of the work joins text and image together: ‘It’s where you stop writing and start drawing.’ Like other children’s writers, Sendak had a clear understanding of the multimodal ways of children reading and experimented with it by creating pages they could read with their eyes, ears and bodies.

Current Experiments with the Book for Young People Experiments with the book as object and concept have occurred for as long as the idea of a children’s book has existed. For a variety of educational and entertainment reasons, the children’s book has been a veritable laboratory for trying out new ideas! From the floppy fabric book without sharp edges for the infant pre-reader who mainly puts a book in their mouth, to the plastic book a kid takes in the bath. From books with strings, buttons or press-studs attached where the reader ties knots or learns to get dressed, to books with detachable toy elements. From the book as frieze, as mobile, as expanding build-itself doll’s house (a three-dimensional replication of its own setting), to the book as wallet or expanding file for documents (such as letters written to nursery story heroes and villains). From the scratch-andsniff book, to the book incorporating stickers with flavoured edible glue on them. From the book that speaks when you open it, to the know-yourinsects book that comes with a built-in magnifier. From the bifurcating narrative choose-your-own adventure book, to the app book for smart device delivery. These notions about adapting the book to the fundamental needs and delights of the reader – not pursued to nearly the same degree in the history of the mainstream adult book – incorporate interaction between reader and book involving all the senses. In this thinking, the book is a different zone of endeavour to that conceptualized for the adult book; it is a multiple senses motivating zone. Because of the variety of interactions


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already conceived for the children’s book, it has moved more readily into the technological age. In many discussions of the future of creative writing for children a particular message is repeated, summed up by Roxie Munro: I think within one generation – maybe 30 years – very few houses will have bookshelves and few people will have libraries. … I don’t think, sadly, that the average house will have a bookshelf in 30 years. (National Public Radio, 2012) The major impact of the migration to e-reading is occurring already. A key part of this process involves the fact that young children are greatly attracted to e-readers and instinctively (it seems) know how to use them. This next generation will hurry the iPad and other tablet forms into being the dominant platforms. In her keynote speech at the TOC (Tools of Change) conference at the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna in 2013 (Figure 6.11), Kristen McLean, a children’s book publisher, referred to how ‘new mechanisms are driving the acquisition of content’ (McLean, 2013: slide 30). The new mechanisms favour the emergent and newly empowered ‘hybrid author ’, she said. Hybrid authors – those who produced content adaptable to both paper and electronic platforms – were earning ‘$10K more per year than traditionally published peers …; [were] 10% more likely to be blogging and on Facebook …; [and] have been on Twitter 12% longer than their peers’ (McLean, 2013: slides

Figure 6.11 Kristen McLean, ‘Reading the same book in different formats’, 2013 Source: Slides 36 and 37 from Kristen McLean, ‘The Future of Children’s Books in Five Trends’, Keynote Speech at TOC Bologna 2013:

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7–9). McLean made the case for recognizing that all in-house mechanisms of children’s publishing had moved significantly to being digital commensurate. The shifts readers and writers had made in thinking newly about the look and content of children’s books meant that they (the books) were now much more likely to be thought of in digital terms. A valuable document in this discussion is the film made by high school students at San Diego’s High Tech High Media Arts School, under the leadership of teacher Margaret Noble, uploaded to YouTube in 2010. ‘Students used Photoshop and Adobe Flash to produce inventive concepts responding to the prompt, “What is the future of children’s books?”.’ Their stop-motions use original photography and sound design (see HTHMASTOPMOTIONS, 2010). The film shows 30 student contemplations of how the children’s book will morph, adapt and transform in the future. What they, as readers, imagine might happen is useful for writers to consider. The students predicted: • • • • • • • • •

books as holograms or three-dimensional projections – where sometimes the projection device is the paper book itself; books as projectors of pages onto the bedroom wall or onto the sky; books incorporated into reading glasses; books that look just like paper books, but where the images move; crayons that can make the images in books become three-dimensional; an ‘Imagination Mic’ which the child speaks into and which can ‘Mold your own story into matter’; the book as a headband which allows reading while asleep – called the ‘Sleep n’ Learn: Learning even for the laziest of children’; books as chips the reader plugs into their brain; and ‘A phone that projects children’s stories [onto] a glove that brings the stories to life in the palm of your hand’. (HTHMASTOPMOTIONS, 2010)

Each of these concepts addresses the basic ideas about interactivity and animation which have historically concerned children’s writers and illustrators. Significantly, the San Diego students engaged with key themes of multimodal literacy and, although they were of high school age, all dealt with the concept of the page being visual and having sound. Clearly their interest in the future of the book revolves around more than the narrative text. Other parts of the publishing spectrum – the narrative-driven chapter books and middle grade books, also called books for junior readers and for older readers (ages 7–10 and 9–12) – have been traditionally more aligned to the book as an alphabetic textual work and to phasing out the multimodal

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reading experience. During this period of their reading, children are traditionally reined in and encouraged to conform to adult conventions. Publishing has typically dealt with the child’s development by means of a rule of thumb based on conventional educationalist studies: as the reading age increases, the complexity of the language and the word length go up while the number of illustrations and the font size go down. Such ideas are at odds with Kress’s analysis of multimodal literacy. In 2013, the chief content editor for popular e-ink reader manufacturer Kobo (an anagram of book) said that in the seven and older reading range the text-only ebook was increasingly popular especially among readers of series, who could easily download the next in the series as they enthusiastically read on (Tamblyn, 2013). Noticeably, however, in 2012 Kobo had launched tablet versions of their reader which were comparable to the iPad and offered ‘a multimedia experience designed for Readers who do more than read’ (Kobo Inc., 2014). This step by an e-reader manufacturer into the multimodal app field is significant, reflecting the migration towards the hypermedia book at all reading levels. Further, since before 2000 these conventions have been challenged by the concept of the picture book produced as much for adults as for children (see, for example, Gary Crew and Shaun Tan’s The Viewer, 1997; Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder’s The Great Bear, 1999; John Marsden and Shaun Tan’s The Rabbits, 1998). This type of book, which looks just like a children’s book, grapples with adult themes in a complex and sophisticated manner, and represents a space for multimodal reading which is shared by children and adults. The emotional and intellectual depth of these books argues strongly against the old-fashioned idea that reading the pictures is not for the adult literary reader. Storytelling for children has already adapted over thousands of years from the oral platform (the spoken story) to the print platform and the moving image platform. Now it is in the process of adapting to the digital platform. Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, in an app version, won the 2013 Bologna Children’s Book Fair prize (Egmont Press, 2013), and William Joyce’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – significantly a story for children (and adults) about a writer living through a storm which scatters his words and then sees their revitalization as a book that can fly – started as an Oscar-winning short film (2011) then morphed into an iPad app as well as a traditional paper picture book (2012) (Moonbot Studios, 2012). When multimodal reading is more clearly recognized as the shared domain of readers of all ages, more cross-platform works like these will be produced. Everything paper engineering tried to do for the book – to animate the page and make it able to be interactively manipulated – becomes easily available through digital means. The paper flap opening on the paper page to discover Spot in his Where’s Spot? basket or the elephant in his Dear Zoo cargo box is easily

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transformed into finger contact on the screen of the app reader. But is this aspect of the migration between platforms as much a problem as it provides an easy solution? The great thing about Where’s Spot? and Dear Zoo was their appeal to the concepts of suspense and discovery, and the magic of innocent revelation. Can the digital platform replicate this innocence? Or will young children be unsurprised by this kind of manipulation? All iPad sites are read interactively, but books which do this are special. Kimberley Reynolds said of children’s writers in 2007: some of those who are currently creating picture books are introducing ideas that many adults find challenging, and doing so in ways which I believe are preparing readers to advance thinking about self and society in philosophically and aesthetically exciting ways. These range from purpose-free, ludic creativity to radical questioning of how new technologies and changing environments affect the human psyche. Where much fiction about cyberspace and new technologies currently falls short of positive engagement with new technologies … picture book makers are referencing and drawing on characteristics of new media at the levels of narration, design and the text-reader dynamic in ways that recall the modernists’ excitement about machines, new technology, and the future of culture. (Reynolds, 2010: 38) While children’s writers adapt storytelling to the platforms of the future, it can be predicted that aspects of the children’s writing context will not change. It does not seem likely that the digital age will usher in a sudden new age of greater liberalism in moral, social or political thinking. If anything, new technologies create new levels of protest. Children’s writers, I expect, will continue to be denigrated by reviewers and other elements in society simply because they write for children, in spite of the economic fact that children’s publishing continues to account for 25% of publishing in the English-language world, and the educational fact that children’s literature provides one of the most positive impacts among the formative influences on the growing child. Writing for children will continue to be influenced by the fact that it has a multiple audience. Many judgments about children’s books are made by adults. These adults are sometimes, as parents, overly protective and relatively uneducated about the literacy and social development needs of their children. Often, as in the case of teachers and librarians, they are motivated by institutionally driven agendas. Others, such as politicians, scientists and representatives of religions, are prompted by ideology and fixed belief. All of these impinge on the writer who seeks to communicate constructively with

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the child or adolescent reader. No matter which platform delivers the child’s book, the argument will continue about the degree to which writing for children should be for their education in serious matters or for their playful entertainment, or both. Collaborations between writers and illustrators will continue as they have done in the past. But it seems collaborations between more varied creative practitioners will extend further across the age groups with new technologies. For example, a Young Adult novel might in the future be the product of co-authorship between a writer and a songwriter. Or a writer and a young adult. Or several of both. Writing for children, because it is done for an audience conventionally held to be ‘immature’, may seem like an immature sort of writing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Children’s literature has provided a forum for all kinds of experimentation in language, art, design and social commentary since the mid-20th century. To write for children is a complex, vexed and highly demanding occupation. In the future, as now, writing for kids will be a great challenge with great potential rewards.


Fiction and the Future

Fiction and New Technologies In 1990 John Barth spoke at an international symposium on The Novel in the Next Century hosted by Harvard University. In his remarks, he outlined his vision of the literary future: … Excessive televiewing comes to be regarded, and not only by the elite, as on a par with excessive alcohol consumption and single-crop agriculture. Billboards and signs on city buses extol the hygienic pleasures of reading. … Reading rooms spring up in our teleportation terminals, furnished nostalgically with period chipboard bookshelves from the twentieth century; special no-viewing, no-listening seats are available on whatever passes for public vehicles. Even the irresistible virtual worlds of interactive whole-body computer simulation come to include virtual armchairs in which one can virtually read virtual novels, non-interactive except in the wonderful way that readers and writers have traditionally interacted. (Barth, 1995: 365–366) Barth painted a perceptive picture of a sci-fi century but, in spite of his eminence as a radical writer, he was conservatively cautious about where his generation’s experiments were leading. He did not see a positive connection between the video screen and the novel: [I]t seems to me to be better mental exercise, civically healthier exercise, to be reading for pleasure – great fiction, junk fiction, nonfiction, anything – than to sit hypnotized by that ‘satanic glass screen,’ as the writer Mark Helprin calls it. No doubt I am being both biased and superstitious, but … I think of the novel (and, by extension, of general literacy) as a canary in the coal mines of democratic civil society. I have read, and 161

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I believe it, that people are more manipulable by the visual media than by print (I know that I am). (Barth, 1995: 362) Apart from the fact that Barth did not foresee the possibility that visual media and literary print might eventually converge – that the novel might indeed appear on the ‘satanic’ screen – he demonstrated 20th-century prejudices which continued to plague developments in the new century. Barth suggested that the reader being ‘hypnotized’ by a screen is a bad thing, while being engrossed in a book – not seen as a kind of ‘hypnotism’ – is far better. He said that screens manipulated readers more than books, which is a hard case to defend: the book has a long history of powerful influence, viz. the Bible and the Koran. We can discern in Barth’s vision how strangely disoriented the experimentalists of the 20th century may have become once it was likely that fiction might truly escape the paper page. In America Robert Coover and Lance Olsen embraced the jump from one medium to the next, but many of the older writers did not. Perhaps, in spite of electronic writing’s promise, the technological demands were too great, and involved too many skill shifts. Certainly, while Barth delivered his remarks to the Harvard symposium on the novel in the next century, Michael Joyce, Stuart Moulthrop and other writers were already publishing fictions of the future – fictions which were clear extensions of the kind of experiment Barth himself had undertaken with his endless paper Möbius strip story ‘Frame-Tale’ in 1968 (Barth, 1988: 1–2). In part we can understand Barth’s ‘bias and superstition’ by thinking about the book as an object. It has a powerfully iconic shape and weight – a sort of brick for the building of knowledge, faith and civilization, for walls against ignorance. The libraries constructed to care for it resemble temples and banks; kept in treasured numbers, the book resembles bullion. The book as object had such weight in cultural perception it was difficult for anyone to imagine it as electricity, thinner than air. One of the few to have this vision, as early as 1983, was Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who said in a speech in bold anticipation of the launch of the iPad 27 years later: What we want to do is we want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you and learn how to use in 20 minutes … and we really want to do it with a radio link in it so … you’re in communication with all of these larger databases and other computers. (Jobs, quoted in Panzarino, 2012, my italics) This even more powerful book, as portable as the codex but so much more talented, combined the elements that Barth was concerned to keep apart.

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Jobs and Apple saw the iPad screen as a book page. Creative writing has begun to see it so too. Today we still talk about novels and books of poetry as monographs, as stand-alone or singular products. But the mono in monograph implies ideas which the 21st century rejects across a wide range of discourse. Oneness, exclusivity, solitariness – these no longer apply positively to culture, narrative or publishing. Multi- is the message now. The book today is not expected to have a single perspective or author, a single narrative strategy or thesis, a single plot development, a single thrust into the readerly world, or a single point of publication, editorial and commercial management. The book is less a published object and more a writerly and readerly set of processes which complement its publication status. Its place in the culture is now deeply influenced by base-readers’ written responses, further authorial activity in the digital paratext, and the developing multiple technologies for which it may be suited. Recent publishing in app form – for example, versions of Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, Eliot’s The Waste Land and Shakespeare’s sonnets – has revitalized classic works in ways that emphatically embrace multiplicity. Through their availability on several platforms, provision of diverse textual versions and audio readings, exegetical discussions with authorial and other expert interpretations, and so on, these canonical monographic works have been given new lives and new positions in the culture. A democratization has occurred. A different hierarchy is now formed by writer, publisher, book production and reader. In essence, it is not now a hierarchical arrangement at all, but a rhizomic paradigm where the contributions of each element are much more equal. The new interactivity between reader and book, and reader and writer, has significantly penetrated the mysteries in which publishers previously shrouded their processes. For example, publishing houses now agree they cannot handle an emerging writer’s publicity and marketing on their own: they need the writer to help (see, for example, J. Wiley & Sons, 2010). A writer’s self-generated web presence across a range of activity (author blogs, websites, videos, podcasts, Facebook fan pages, tweeting and webinars) is an essential element in marketing a book. The disruption to centuries-old conventions of the monograph have also occurred in what the product looks and feels like. We now have books readable on browsers and ebook readers, and downloadable to iPads, tablets, phablets and the growing number of smart devices. This technological progress in delivery platforms signifies changes in the reception of creative writing, but the really interesting changes are occurring to the literary work itself at levels where the possibilities of narrative are greatly enhanced by


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hypertext, and where the potential of the page has been greatly enriched by hypermedia. The era of the page as a wall of black text is contested; the page for normal reading is the screen now, and it involves text, image, colour and sound working together to produce multimodal narratives. Literary publishing (of the novel, poetry, short stories, etc.) faces significant challenges in orienting to the new possibilities. Initial responses to the potential of writing electronically in the 1990s came from creative web users themselves. Fanzines, hypertext prose and other digital writing phenomena of the 1990s, including the pioneering work of writers associated with Eastgate Systems’ publishing, involved the idea that the reader can write back, and that works of literature are not published from inaccessible literary towers but involve interactive discourses. This is now part of the literary landscape; interactivity as a principle of literature is accepted as part of the future. The hypertext fiction and poetry era was a waypoint in the development of hypermedia writing. Since 2000, an upsurge of writing and publication in response to the digital possibilities of print production has resulted in a number of mainstream paper novels incorporating multimodal elements. This level of experimental publishing by mainstream publishers has never been seen before. Significant writers W.G. Sebald (2001), Umberto Eco (2005) and Jonathan Safran Foer (2005), among others, are involved. As a new direction for publishers who previously did not support multimodal experimental writing, this is an indication of the future where print books will look more like hypermedia app books, because publishers will need to exploit both the textual (paper) and hypermedia (digital) possibilities of creative work in the new publishing landscape where the paper and the digital co-exist. Developments here indicate that previously radical writing is now part of the mainstream, and that the category of experimental writer on the fringe is coalescing with the literary everyday. As this book goes to press, the interaction between new technologies and creative writing quickens. Hypermedia literary productions marketed by adventurous publishers and individual writers since 2011 include a focus on the app and web novel. These pioneering works give us a significant taste of the future for serious creative writing.

The Reader Writes Back: Electronic Writing from the 1990s Onwards In the 1990s, before the potential of hypermedia was realized, the advent of hypertext provided the breakthrough for readers to enact (perhaps

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ironically) some version of Barthes’ ideas about the reader creating the work. To poetry and fiction, hypertext introduced linked glossaries, plot pathway choices, parallel narratives, character backstory files, primitive graphics, and so on. It was a large-scale assault on linearity in writing, and also on the relative isolation of the published creative text. On the one hand, this brave new world of writing and reading produced the beginnings of a niche-based literary community using multimedia (e.g. the CD-ROM) along with pioneering websites for the serious publishing of original works. On the other hand, it created a lively and massive web-based fanzine community who used (and still use) the internet to write together in response to, and to influence, popular culture products (see, for example, the millions of contributions to www. Regarding the fanzine community, the creative writing produced by fandom in the 1990s and before was analyzed by Henry Jenkins in Textual Poachers (1993). In the updated edition of his classic study, Jenkins says: what is powerful about fan fiction is that it is ‘unpublishable’. That is, it is not bound by the constraints that shape commercial media production. But the bounds between what is and is not publishable are constantly shifting. (Jenkins, 2013: xxv) The ‘unpublishable’ publishing space he identifies is the radical space occupied by avant-garde writers for at least a century. Now, due to the internet, readers can step into it: ‘fandom offers us a powerful model for understanding how widespread grassroots creativity may persist despite (or perhaps even because of) limited opportunities to directly profit from one’s own labour’ (Jenkins, 2013: xxx–xxxi). For fan reader/writers, ‘writing becomes a social activity’ and a ‘source of collective identity’. In a number of ways fan practices ‘move beyond the status of criticism and interpretation’ (Jenkins, 2013: 154–155). Like radical writers of the past, fans attempt to change the canon to make it ‘more central to the community’s experience’, to map ‘specific conventions through which the community constructs its stories’ (Jenkins, 2013: xlii). This rebellious democratization of critique, and demystification of publishing, had their effect on the multimodal development of the literary text. The audience for poetry and fiction in the digital age is more vocal and visible, more present at the writer’s desk in the sense of being just a click or two away from her keyboard, home page or blog. Regarding serious literary endeavour in the 1990s, Robert Coover’s brilliant 1999 keynote address to the DAC ’99 conference is the best summing


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up of early hypertext work by writers such as Michael Joyce, Judy Malloy, Stuart Moulthrop and Shelley Jackson: These pioneer narrative hypertexts explored the tantalizing new possibility of laying a story out spatially instead of linearly, inviting the reader to explore it as one might explore one’s memory or wander a many-pathed geographical terrain, and, being adventurous quests at the edge of a new literary frontier, they were often intensely self-reflective. (Coover, 1999) Coover singles out Jackson’s Patchwork Girl (1995), based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as ‘[p]erhaps the true paradigmatic work of the era’. He goes on: The very choice of the central metaphor of Patchwork Girl was alone a stroke of genius: the patching together of a new body, whether of flesh or text, from linked fragments of other bodies, also of flesh, also of text, once dead, now given new life, new form, if somewhat strange and ‘monstrous.’ The work is divided, like the senses, into five linked sections, and one of these is the raiding of the graveyard for body parts – and for the stories attached to their previous owners. Thus, from the outset, this patching together of a physical body from disparate but harmonious parts was linked to a similar patching together of story materials, the body becoming text, text body, a traditional theme given its true hypertextual configuration with this multiply coded, larger-than-life patchwork girl. (Coover, 1999) Another Eastgate Systems publication, Michael Joyce’s (2011) afternoon: a story, is acknowledged as the prototype hypertext novel. A fragmented narrative about the fragmented state of mind of a man who has lost his son in a car accident, afternoon: a story introduced readers to the way hypertextuality could de-centralize and de-linearize a narrative, and how the hypertext work of fiction could endlessly avoid closure. Writers such as James Joyce, Cortázar, Saporta, Coover and B.S. Johnson had tried in various ways to avoid narrative closure with the resources available to the paper book – even attempting publication of novels in loose-leaf form so that the pages of the work could be read in an infinite order. Following these earlier experimenters, Michael Joyce and his peers showed that the layering, disjointedness and circularity of reading hypertext better reflected the nature of life as we live it than did the logically developed narrative which conforms to the constraints of the spine-bound page.

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Some 25 years after Michael Joyce’s work, web-based electronic literature has become highly sophisticated. As one example among many, digital poet Jason Nelson’s website Secret Technology epitomized the possibilities for poetry as text, art and video combined. He uses: self-drawn, original images and found images (photography from advertising, institutional and family sources); self-made, original video and audio, and sampled video and audio; his own and found texts; and sampled, re-worked hypermedia programs and engines to drive his interfaces. So integrated are the components and modes in this multimodal poet’s work, there is no way to quote him here on paper other than refer to his website, (Nelson, n.d.), and let the reader/viewer/listener – the user – experience for themselves.

Beyond 2000: Mainstream Multimodal Publishing on Paper There is a rich history of illustrated books where reading involves response to different kinds of input: the linear reading of the textual component, the spatial reading of the visual component, and the marrying of these together. Most of the extant works in this history are illuminated manuscripts in codex form surviving from the Middle Ages, but in Egypt as early as the 12th century BC there were ancient papyrus rolls where images accompanied text, and in Greece and Rome following that. All these were works produced for adults (Harthan, 1997: 12–14). Upon its invention, printing did not leap immediately into the form we associate it with nowadays where a slab of words takes up the page. Caxton’s earliest printed books in English were for adult reading and included editions with images to illustrate the text (e.g. The Canterbury Tales, 1483) or to give the appearance of an illuminated manuscript (e.g. The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, 1474) (Harthan, 1997: 65–66). Caxton’s adult books involved images not only because they appealed to the illiterate, or the not-perfectly-literate, who were sophisticated visual readers, but also because the literate themselves were used to narrative being enhanced, whether in the form of illuminations/illustrations or the actions and dramatizations provided by the storyteller/preacher/orator in the oral tradition. Following the advent of print, the skills required to understand narrative multimodally (through text + image + sound side by side) declined among literary readers as the high-culture printed book became more and more text dominant. Twentieth-century convention held that illustrated books were either for children, were novelties or avant-garde fringe experiments, or were text books


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or technical manuals, and were seen to be on a level with comics and newspaper publishing. Readers just 15 years ago found it hard to associate serious adult literature with the printed image: high and low cultures which the two represented simply did not mix. But the screen’s domination of all aspects of reading via television, computers and smart devices in the 21st century means that we now do most of our reading in forms consistent with multimodal layout and design. We are getting sophisticated (again) at reading more than one mode at a time. Since 2000 this has been reflected in new publishing trends. Mainstream literary publishers such as Penguin, Bloomsbury, and Secker & Warburg, along with bestselling writers like W.G. Sebald, Umberto Eco, Jennifer Egan and Jonathan Safran Foer, have produced highly acclaimed novels which incorporate visual elements (graphics, typographics, photographics) to explore the possibilities of multimodal fiction in print. In 2008 N. Katherine Hayles thought that novels like Sebald’s Austerlitz (2001) and Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2005) reflected the perception by print authors that ‘they are in danger of becoming obsolete …’: This anxiety of obsolescence has a complex relation to the recent explosion of creativity in contemporary print novels. On the one hand, print authors fear that print might be regarded as old fashioned and boring in the face of new media, especially electronic texts that can dance to music, morph to suggestive shapes, and perform other tricks impossible for the durable inscriptions of print. On the other hand, print itself is capable of new tricks precisely because it has become an output form for electronic text. (Hayles, 2008: 162) Hayles pointed out that while we persist in saying that the digital novel has not yet quite arrived, in fact all aspects of the text-writing process – from the author’s keyboard to the printing press itself – are electronically organized (Hayles, 2008: 159). However, she did not mention that the post-2000 experimental print novels were not necessarily a product of the technological imperative, but were preceded by a long rehearsal conducted on the fringes of literature where the restrictions of the paper page and the conventions of poetry and fiction publishing have been challenged repeatedly. In 2001, W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz was published in German and translated into English in the same year (Sebald, 2001). Austerlitz’s plot concerns a Czechoslovakian-Jewish man fostered to a family in Wales at the age of five to escape the Holocaust. Fifty years later he returns to Europe seeking his history and identity. Appearing regularly throughout the novel – and usually placed mid-sentence in the text – are black-and-white photographs recording his search and the tragic history it traces (Figure 7.1). So powerfully woven

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Figure 7.1 W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, 2001 Source: Sebald (2011: 2–3).

are image and text, the reader cannot but merge the ‘evidence’ of the photographic images into the reading of the fiction. With suspension of disbelief, we accept that the textual fiction portrays reality, but the ‘authenticity’ and ‘tragic detail’ of these photographs hammer the reality of the message home. Placed precariously in a zone between fact and fiction, and influenced by how we learn history from screen footage and photographic record these days, Austerlitz investigates how our ‘reality’ is produced by the intertwining of two different reading modes – the textual and the visual. Another work, set in the present, but again looking back to a childhood in the 1940s, Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (2005) uses visual images in a way similar to Austerlitz. Eco’s character Yambo is an amnesiac who rediscovers his lost memories of childhood, love and identity by rifling through the family attic and finding comic books, newspapers, scriptural texts, photo albums, stamp collections, movie posters, pulp novels, school notebooks and a plethora of other memorabilia from his Italian childhood, examples of which are reproduced in photographs throughout the


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novel (Figure 7.2). As with Austerlitz, the visual artefacts are a product of the protagonist’s fictional search and create a powerful gallery of realism which challenges the way we read text, normally, as either fiction or non-fiction. Reflected in the fact that Eco’s images provide a continuing riot of colour in the book, the story is about finding an innocent, lost first love in a world rich in detail and humour. This kind of colour and abundance could not have been conveyed solely in text. The novel shows how an evocative and meaningful reading experience is produced by nuancing the relationship between text and visuals, by controlling the ‘mesh’ of text narrative and visual repository. The ideas for narrative established by Sebald and Eco were further investigated by Leanne Shapton’s Was She Pretty? (Shapton, 2006). Here the novelist provided line-drawn portraits of the ex-partners of friends and acquaintances, set beside stabbing little word-portraits, each a mini-story. The visuals lubricate the reading process by graphically confirming the anxious or jealous messages conveyed by the text. This amusing – and equally terrifying – narrative turns snippets of gossip into the stuff of disturbing psychological fiction. Shapton’s later work, Important Artifacts and Personal

Figure 7.2 Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, 2005 Source: Eco (2005: 328–329).

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Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry (2009) took much further the idea of critique of personal relationships emerging from the juxtaposition of textual and visual narratives. Presented in the form of an illustrated auction catalogue (Figure 7.3), the book itemized 332 lots for sale – including documents, clothing, household objects, books, personal possessions, etc. – which, while merely photographed and tersely described, build into a detailed and moving account of the history and experience of the four-year relationship (2002–2006) between Lenore and Harold. Displaying no overt narrative characteristics whatsoever, Shapton’s work proves how text and imagery tightly woven together – even presented in dispassionate catalogue form – can produce a gripping personal narrative. The most astonishing bestseller to involve multimodal reading in this period was Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2005). It focused on a ‘new’ Holocaust – the 9/11 Twin Towers tragedy – and followed the search of a young boy for his dead father. There is not room here to address all aspects of this tour de force among multimodal novels, nor to analyze in depth the complexity of interactions it sets up between text, layout, typography, design, graphics, colour, photography, literary forms and the structure of the codex itself. Reference to just one passage in the novel will suffice. Having collected a sequence of 15 published photographs for his Stuff That Happened to Me scrapbook which shows page by page the frames in a film of a man falling from the World Trade Center on 9/11 – possibly, in fact, his own father on the hellish way down – nine-year-old Oskar rips the pages apart and rearranges them in reverse order. These are reproduced at the actual novel’s end as a 15-page flip book (Figure 7.4): the reader can flip them and produce their own ‘film’ of the man falling upwards (although the reverse of the reversal can be performed too … for those who want a tragic ending). In a salute to Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow, the final textual sequence of the novel has the newly un-fallen man come back down in the lift after the plane has flown backwards out of the closing hole in the building, then he catches the train backwards home, then gets into bed backwards with his son who says ‘Dad’, which sounds the same backwards as forwards. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close provides the most complete investigation of the multimodal possibilities of the paper novel, but also provides an investigation into how fiction will transfer to the hypermedia modes available in app technologies. It is a farsighted work, in line with Hayles’ prediction that ‘digital literature will be a significant component of the twenty-first century canon’ (Hayles, 2008: 159). However, not all critics were impressed. The New York Times reviewer called it ‘irritating’ and singled out Foer’s ‘attempts to

172 Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

Figure 7.3 Leanne Shapton’s Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry, 2009 Source: Shapton (2009: 99).

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Figure 7.4 Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, 2005 Source: Foer (2006: 204–205).

employ razzle-dazzle narrative techniques: playful typography, blank pages … and photographs’: Clearly Mr. Foer has used these techniques … to try to get traction on horrific events that defy both reason and conventional narrative approaches, but all too often his execution verges on the whimsical rather than the galvanic or persuasive. In fact, ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ tends to be at its most powerful when Mr. Foer abandons his willful use of experimental techniques and simply writes in an earnest, straightforward manner, using his copious gifts of language to limn his characters’ state of mind. (Kakutani, 2005) This ‘irritation’ occurs rather frequently to reviewers of multimodal paper works for major newspapers, perhaps indicating some residual


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establishment antagonism towards the avant-garde. For comparison see, for example, Tim Adams’ review of The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet in The Observer, which complains that this richly diverse work creates ‘what might be called “curiosity boredom”: the kind that is allied to unstinting invention, an excess of precociousness’ (Adams, 2009); or Ginia Bellafante’s New York Times review of the same book which calls it ‘exhausting’ and notes: ‘Following some of the marginalia requires repositioning the book, turning it around and sideways, making it something for neither the formalist nor the arthritic’ (Bellafante, 2009). Clearly there is an old guard still resistant to the new reading associated with new media, and its hackles rise further when confronted with the possibilities of hypermedia being rehearsed in sacrosanct print form. But the multimodal is here to stay; its virus has spread from the screen back onto the printed page, in spite of the fact that the idea of co-existence and crossfertilization between paper and digital is still not on the old guard’s agenda. Less visual in the photographic or figurative senses, but equally radical in terms of their typography and layout experimentation, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000), Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper (2006) and Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (2009) were all US bestsellers which, had they been published a decade earlier, would have been consigned to an experimental list and would never have found high-profile mainstream publishers (i.e. Pantheon/Random House, Bloomsbury and Penguin, respectively).

A Brave New World of Paper Publishing The electronic age has allowed paper book publishing to become more visually engaging, but has also introduced the possibility of the book connecting with other senses. One might imagine the auditory experience of a paper book where each page opens to a different soundbite, just as audio greeting cards do with the assistance of tiny electronic circuits. Here the audio book and the paper book would converge. At MIT, students have taken the challenge further by constructing a haptic book, where the reader shares the protagonist’s bodily feelings via a wearable vest electronically linked to the paper book: Readers experience the sci-fi tale through programmable glowing LEDs that create ambient light based on what page the reader’s on; a personal heating device secured at the collarbone that changes skin temperature; vibrations to influence heart rate; and a compression system to convey tightness or loosening through pressurized airbags. (Katz, 2014)

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Here the reader can sweat, shiver and feel the pressure the character is going through, but putting on an electronic harness each time you read a book might detract somewhat from the intimate act of reading. However, the sense of touch in relation to reading the paper book has been dramatically altered, or assisted, by computer technology in the case of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes (2010). If A Humument (Phillips, 2005–2012) defines the page as a point where writing and painting can meet, then the pages in Foer’s Tree of Codes define a point where writing and sculpture can do so. Sharing much in common with sculptor Brian Dettmer’s book dissections (see, for example, Dettmer, 2011) but in this case producing a narrative to read rather than an object to look at, Foer’s pages are carved away by computer-assisted die-cutting machines. Four to six individually shaped holes or ‘erasures’ are cut into each of the 134 pages in the novel, producing not just a shorter work (a long short story, really) but also the experience of unevenly overlapping ‘windows’ which look through to later parts of the narrative, with some of the overlap causing quite deep penetration into partly revealed aspects of the text yet to come (Figure 7.5). Without computer technology, this kind of book simply isn’t possible (Visual Editions, 2011). Tree of Codes is a book carved into another book. Jonathan Safran Foer wrote it by eliminating – physically die-cutting – some of the words in

Figure 7.5 Jonathan Safran Foer, Tree of Codes, 2010 Source:


Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

Sklepy cynamonowe, a Bruno Schulz book written in 1934. With the remaining words Safran Foer created his own story. Sklepy cynamonowe (literally, ‘the cinnamon shops’) is a short story collection translated into English as The Street of Crocodiles [Schulz, 2008]. This title is also die-cut into Safran Foer’s own, as follows: ‘the sTREEt OF croCODilES’. (Serrano, 2013) In an afterword, Foer tells us that in 1941 Bruno Schulz, an Austro-Hungarian Jew, had to ask his gentile friends to hide his manuscripts from the Germans. Few of his manuscripts survived, and Schultz himself was killed by the Gestapo in 1942. Foer does not tell us which edition of The Street of Crocodiles he used, and one suspects he did not use an actual original book (as Phillips did, painting over W.H. Mallock’s actual 1892 novel A Human Document). Foer ‘printed out and formatted his own version’ of Schulz’s work to form the basis for his project (Elkins, 2014). In slicing away sections from Schulz’s pages, Foer performs a death of many cuts to the original narrative, creating in a sense a replica of the redacted obliterations used by wartime censors. But a new story rises from the book’s amputated parts, a new narrative forms in the ravaged leaves of its pages. I have to say that whereas Tom Phillips’ Humument narrative, as a product of erasures, is awkward and cryptic, the narrative Foer exhumes from The Street of Crocodiles is so seamlessly re-sewn, one can easily think they are reading a brilliant new work, not an even more brilliant disinterring of a new story from a set of old ones. Foer says of his process: For years I had wanted to create a die-cut book by erasure, a book whose meaning was exhumed from another book. I had thought of trying the technique with the dictionary, the encyclopedia, the phone book, various works of fiction and non-fiction, and with my own novels. But any of those options would have merely spoken to the process. The book would have been an exercise. I was in search of a text whose erasure would somehow be a continuation of its creation. (Foer, 2011: 138) At times he felt he was ‘making a gravestone rubbing’ of the original, and at others that he was ‘transcribing a dream’ that The Street of Crocodiles might have had. He worked so intensely on reading the original in the process of erasing much of it, he became certain that Schulz’s tightly written prose too was ‘the product of a similar exhumation’. This led Foer to the evocative and powerful thought for writers that there is an ‘imagined larger book’, an ‘ultimate book’ from which ‘every word ever written, spoken or thought is exhumed … The Book of Life’ (Foer, 2011: 139). As regards reading Tree of Codes, the tactile difficulties of handling the book emphasize its materiality, but not its durability. The pages are fragile

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filigree; you turn them delicately so that any one doesn’t snag with the others; you have to hold each page away from the others to access each word or phrase. Life is made of instances, is one of the story’s messages, and working so carefully to actually produce a reading is a wonderful experience. It gives the reader a greater sense of the difficulties the writer has had in choosing/ producing each word. And also, because of the cutting and overlapping, the pages seem to be a kind of screen, an obscuring of the future of the narrative, but also a tantalizing partial revelation of it. we part of the tree of cod es .Reality is as thin as paper immediately before us

find ourselves only the small section

is behind us sawdust in an enormous empty theatre. (Foer, 2011: 92–93, with gaps approximating to the original) to endure


Of course, this quote as a reproduction does not include the see-through aspects of the actual page/s which turn the reading into something like peering through a mist at an often-obscured, occasionally discernible but puzzling, future. This work enacts the possibilities of the printed page and the narrative it carries like no other. It reminds us how deeply we read the page, and what we attempt to see beyond it. It uses a technique as simple as that in Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s Peepo! (1981) to allow us the insight that nothing can ever reach a definite conclusion. Nowhere as much as there [in the city of the tree of codes] do we feel possibilities, shaken by the nearness of realization. the atmosphere becomes possibilities and we shall wander and make a thousand mistakes. . . . (Foer, 2011: 95–96, with gaps not indicated) Foer’s book reminds us of how sacred the paper page is, and how upsetting the damaging of it, for whatever reason, can be. The printed text reaching out to another of the senses – the auditory – has led, for example, to the astonishing multimodal Chapter 12 of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010). Without the computer program PowerPoint, this most talked-about part of Egan’s novel would not exist. The major feature of Egan’s chapter is that it takes the form of a PowerPoint presentation which uses 76 pages of the 274-page novel. The slide


Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

Figure 7.6 Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad, 2011, p. 216 Source: Egan (2011: 216).

pages evoke a live ppt presentation as well as a ‘printout’ of it (Figure 7.6). Being very familiar with this kind of presentation, I read Egan’s work and can’t help hearing a commentary, as if someone is speaking to the slides, and this voice becomes the narrative voice for me for these pages of the novel. The effect creates a voice between the text and my reading of it – a voice which is not contained in the printed text but has been provided by my own multimodal reading. The chapter’s characteristics are traceable to the impact of graphics on the novel form, but a significant point about Egan’s ppt presentation, titled ‘Great Rock and Roll Pauses By Alison Blake’, is its focus on the theme of silence (Egan, 2011: 176–251). In the narrative, 12-year-old Alison’s brother Lincoln is obsessed with finding and cataloguing pop songs that have pauses – periods of silence – in them. He measures the length of the pauses, where they occur in the songs, and creates an impact index for them (Figure 7.7). Needless to say, his obsession causes his parents some distress as they try to get him to broaden his interests. Clearly Egan’s novel has entered John Cage territory, and the fact that a 13-year-old boy is interested in the topic of silence, and capable of manipulating the technology for his research, indicates just how far into the

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Figure 7.7 Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad, 2011, p. 247 Source: Egan (2011: 247).

mainstream Cage’s ideas have come. Egan beautifully resolves the question of the traditional ‘emptiness’ of silence and its surprising actual busy-ness when Alison and her father venture out into the desert together. What they find – just like Lincoln finding power in pauses – is thousands of solar panels all collecting moonlight. The desert – like silence, like reading, like writing – is different from what was expected in the past. While hard-copy novels have incorporated images from photography, illustration and comic books, Egan broke new ground by incorporating a visual form native to the electronic age. Other interactions between the paper novel and the electronic age include re-imagined classics re-presented as if on technology steroids or hallucinogens – a process sometimes referred to as remediation. In Chapter 3 I discussed Visual Editions’ 2010 version of Tristram Shandy, Simon Morris’s Getting Inside Jack Kerouac’s Head (2009) and his earlier Re-Writing Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams (2005). The production processes for each of these works were not remotely possible in their original’s day. The remediated Tristram Shandy posits what Sterne might have done had he access to a 21st-century computer as opposed to 18th-century printing technology. Morris’s version of On the Road involved the intermediary publishing stage of a blogging website as


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trace of his reworking process. And his Interpretation of Dreams (which reads like an extreme cut-up) required access to a web-based version of Freud’s work and the power of a software program to copy and randomize Freud’s words and then present them, although nonsensically, in the exact format and design of the original. Publishing and design houses devoted to redesigning the paper book with digital wizardry have included Four Corners Books (http://www. and The Publishing Lab ( Their iconoclastic, visually rich remediations challenged our notions of what a hard-copy adult book should be and do. Significantly they demand that we read multimodally, especially with greater visual literacy. One of The Publishing Lab’s graphic designers and editors, Alberto Hernández, described his aim in re-imagining classics such as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as combining the ‘physicality of books’ with the ‘more dynamic narrative experience’ available in ebooks: A hybrid novel can be seen as a hybrid image-text novel, not a children’s book, graphic novel/comic or gift book but a book where written text and graphic devices such as illustration, photography, information graphics or typographic treatments may interject in order to hold a readers’ interest, adding interactiveness to the book and also giving the printed page a multidimensional visual surface. It is a kind of book that requires to be handled and experienced, which requires the readers’ actions. (Hernández, 2013a) The sense of freedom from the old-school page led to ideas about playing with the paper of the page itself in the newly conceived Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: … a wide range of paper was used to print all the material, from Bible paper to newsprint paper or glossy paper. In addition, a different variety of peach/salmon colours was used for the text pages; this is so: firstly, to communicate the hidden idea of homosexuality in the story, and secondly, having a range of different shades gives the remediation a more odd feeling and suggests the idea that there are different documents. Besides, the contrast between the pastel colour and black makes readers think of dichotomy. (Hernández, 2013a) Hernández as remediator is thinking in the multimodal terms that creative writers will have to newly think in. In terms of the writing process, Hernández’s kind of hybrid paper book is a stepping stone towards the natively produced novels of the 21st century.

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Also calling their novels hybrid books, publishers Melville House have reprinted a series of works by Chekhov, Conrad, Scott Fitzgerald and others which link the paper book to an array of web-accessed materials in a form clearly designed to give the reader the traditional feel of paper but with the equivalent of an app novel’s attached database (an ‘Illumination’) accessible on an electronic device: … the program offers extensive ancillary digital materials, such as essays, maps, illustrations, and other primary source material that will be available to purchasers of print books through a QR (Quick Response) code printed inside the book. Smart phone owners simply scan the QR code to receive a download of the material. Alternately, the downloads can be accessed via the internet or email. (Melville House, 2011) Publisher Dennis Johnson called it ‘a treasure trove for readers and a selling point for booksellers’. . . . ‘For example, The Illumination for the HybridBook version of Anton Chekhov’s The Duel contains an essay on dueling by Thomas Paine, poems by Lord Byron, philosophy by Nietzsche, an anti-dueling church sermon, an argument in favor of dueling by a U.S. Senator, and the rules to the game of vint – a game that plays a role in the plot,’ says Johnson. ‘In the Illumination for Giacomo Casanova’s The Duel you’ll find a comic essay by Mark Twain on French dueling and an account of a famous duel fought from hot air balloons. And there’s so much more – maps, cartoons, recipes, photographs, paintings – to enhance the reader’s experience.’ (Melville House, 2011) One imagines booksellers being not altogether comforted by this publishing venture. It looks like a last ditch stand by the paper book against a formidable foe. For as long as the electronic device and the paper novel co-exist, more strange experiments such as the above will occur. Perhaps the most strange and amusing currently is the new kind of paper book called the flipback® (Hodder & Stoughton, 2012). By 2014, 20 novels had been published in flipback®, including works by John Le Carré, Stephen King and Jodi Picoult. The flipback® when closed resembles an iPhone. When open it has the dimensions of an e-reader (Figure 7.8). The text is printed in landscape on superfine Bible paper. The appeal of the format appears to be that you can read a novel on the bus or plane still retaining the feel of a ‘real’ book but those around you won’t scoff at your old-school paper habit – they’ll think you are doing cool e-reading.


Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

Figure 7.8 Hodder & Stoughton’s flipback® book publicity shots Source:

All this jockeying, parrying, criss-cross and appropriation between print and electronic media suggests mainly for creative writers that the Radical is well on the way to being the mainstream.

App and Web Literary Works The contentious Google Books project and the emergence of ebooks and e-readers in the mid-2000s did little for serious creative writers apart from appalling them at Google’s disrespect for copyright and providing them with the understanding that print-published poetry and fiction could be adapted to electronic delivery in ways which meant fewer royalties. Of much more interest, some six years later in 2011, was the news that Touch Press, a pioneer in literary app publishing, had combined with Faber & Faber to produce a remarkable version of Eliot’s The Waste Land in app form (see Touch Press, 2013b). This app quickly became an international bestseller, and also received enthusiastic critical reviews. The hypermedia form – combining a multiplicity of notes, readings, videos and perspectives – allowed more avenues of entry than had previous text-only publication of the poem. Adam Hammond wrote in the Toronto Review of Books: What the Waste Land app has made me see is that if the poem had somehow, anachronistically, originally appeared in electronic form, it would have a very different reputation today. The Waste Land app’s marvelous feat … is to have rescued a vibrant and dynamic poem from a print medium that had entombed and shrouded it, for nearly a century. (Hammond, 2012)

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Next followed Touch Press’s Shakespeare sonnets app book (see Touch Press, 2013a): Now, Touch Press, collaborating … with Faber, has produced a dazzling app of Shakespeare’s sonnets. You can read each one as it is, clean and simple. Touch a button, though, and the 1609 original quarto appears. Or tap a line and you bring up the Arden notes, or a little box to jot your own thoughts in. With another tap, you can watch each of the 154 poems being performed by [an all-star] cast of actors. … Touch another button and you’re in a gallery of films showing a half-dozen Shakespeare scholars talking you through the poems. (Collins, 2012) Then Heinemann and PopLeaf released an app version of A Clockwork Orange (see Random House, 2012), the first app novel for adults combining interactive text, archival documents and video and sound recordings in ‘a lavish production that for once warrants the words “unique” and “spectacular” in the press release …’. Critic Anna Baddeley enthused further: You don’t have to adore the novel (I prefer the film) for the app to make you a mad-eyed evangelist, prone to shoving your iPad in strangers’ faces. ‘Hey, check out the integrated glossary of Nadsat slang! Listen to Tom Hollander narrate it! Watch Martin Amis talk about the controversial last chapter! Hear Burgess being interviewed! Look at his doodles on the original typescript!’ … Anyone who still believes new technology will turn us all into illiterate morons needs to be marched off to a correctional facility, strapped to a chair and given the Clockwork Orange app to play with. It may well cure them. (Baddeley, 2012) These app works are the products of a new kind of publishing thinking. In bringing together many diverse elements, it is more like the thinking required for film production, as Max Whitby, co-founder and CEO of Touch Press, and Henry Volans, head of digital publishing at Faber, indicated when talking about the production of Touch Press’s initial app books at the Frankfurt Book Fair (Whitby & Volans, 2011). But in spite of the app being successful because it does so many things that print can’t do, Henry Volans says: The ‘e’ prefix [in ebook] is misleading. The term book is all that matters. … The devices are not the content. … Some of the most interesting content will be the content that is produced with the capabilities of the devices in mind. … In the longer run, what we are about [at Faber] is authored works, and for them to have primacy and centrality. . . . (Volans, 2010)


Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

So the elements seen in these earliest apps are the elements to be available to creative writers in the future. Such works of fiction or poetry include nonfiction, history and the exegetical; they are richly illustrated with photography, graphics and digital cleverness; they incorporate performances by the authors and music soundtracks. In reading these app books, the reader has the feeling of a variety of texts and a variety of reading experiences combining. In a way, it’s like reading in three dimensions – it does for the novel or the poetry book what Cinerama, then 3D and Sensurround sound did for film. These pioneering, high-end hypermedia books provide an indication of the publishing possibilities and the resources available for creative writing in the future. Clearly the classics and dead authors’ works will provide a rich vein for publishers to mine and fashion into app books. But this array of new publishing gives creative writers plenty to think about: the creative possibilities of writing original material and adaptations for hypermedia are significant. Reif Larsen, in his insightful 2011 article ‘How to Make an ebook that Could Not Be Made’, a commentary on the app version of his experimental novel, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (2009), says of the relationship between technology and creative work: What I didn’t realize until actually experimenting with a touch screen tablet is that this literal contact with the text allows for a certain kind of intimate interaction between the reader and the word that we have never seen before. (Larsen, 2011) This intimacy of contact – an updated version of the ‘feel’ of the paper book – is accompanied by another sort of response and involvement: [My] novel also seems to encourage participation in mapping one’s own world. Already, there have been various homegrown group mapping exercises and competitions inspired by Spivet. So we’ve built in a function for readers to submit their own maps and diagrams into a notebook that can be seen by other readers: essentially an online mapping community, linked by the common pursuit of displaying the world in T.S.’s spirit. Submitting your own creation unlocks extra ‘secret’ content, another feature that ebooks offer which print books do not. (Larsen, 2011) Larsen’s statements contradict the idea that hypermedia publication divorces the reader from the imaginative and sensual involvement experienced with the paper book. In fact it adds a dimension – the community response, the author in touch with her readers.


Teaching and Learning the New Creative Writing

New Reading and Writing The migration of readership from the paper page to the e-page forces teachers of writing to address major changes in publishing and the kinds of outputs writing students produce. Stephanie Vanderslice notes that with Web 2.0 ‘the terrain shifted’ for creative writing teachers. She admits that, like many teachers, she was tempted ‘to hide from this new technology’ (Vanderslice, 2013: 138). Graeme Harper observes ‘the impact of contemporary digital technologies’ on writing and publishing, especially how – using the internet – writers now publish and distribute their own work (cutting out traditional publishers) and talk directly with their audiences. Harper suggests that the ‘role universities play in supporting and developing creative writing needs to be considered in light of this 21st century evolution’ (Harper, 2012: 22). While forward-thinking individual academics notice the changes and ask questions about them, university creative writing programmes have been slow to reflect, or even recognize, this evolution. Clark et al. (2015) observe that, despite the surge in creative writing studies generally since 2000, ‘very few works deal with the profound impact digital technology has on our discipline’: Simply put, creative writing remains more doggedly reliant on, and rooted in, print culture than almost any other discipline. … Creative writing has been hesitant to join other writing disciplines, such as rhetoric and composition and professional writing, that have recognized the importance of digital influences and have theorized how these 185

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technologies impact their writing classrooms. Perhaps this is because creative writing instructors feel the digital tools themselves are intricate, hard to master, and ever changing. And, of course, this is true. But rather than conceiving them as an obstacle, creative writers ought to view digital tools as providing an opportunity for students to broaden their creative skill set. (Clark et al., 2015: 2) Discourse at departmental levels has largely avoided questions like: ‘With the prospect of paper publishing becoming a thing of the past, what writing processes should we teach?’; ‘What will everyone be reading in 10 or 20 years’ time, and what will publishers be looking for?’; and ‘What is it our students need to know now in order to make a living in the future?’. Writing for hypermedia has been thought of as someone else’s business – belonging to the IT and communications people, or the new media arts people. Creative writing, and the English departments it is often housed in, need urgently to address this situation. Eminent librarian and historian Robert Darnton contends that ‘whatever the future may be, it will be digital. The present is a time of transition, when printed and digital modes of communication coexist. …’ (Darnton, 2009: xv). Jeff Gomez, a marketing director for Penguin Group (USA), says: ‘While print is not yet dead, it is undoubtedly sickening’ (Gomez, 2008: 3). One well-published American children’s author, Roxie Munro, declares: ‘I don’t think, sadly, that the average house will have a bookshelf in 30 years [time]’ (National Public Radio, 2012). And The Bookseller’s winning essay for July 2014 states: If you look closely at the trajectory of technology over the past decade, it’s evident where things are heading: a one-stop-shop device (the ‘phablet’, for instance, is a preview of what’s to come). It could be Google Glass; it could be an advanced device that responds to cognitive demands or movements. Whatever it may be, it will be highly personal, highly intuitive and highly functional, and reading will, of course, take place on this device. (Black, 2014) Gunther Kress stated the situation clearly: ‘The book has now been superseded by the screen in the role of dominant medium of communication’ (Kress, 2003: 12, his italics). One might say the following with some confidence. Language-as-speech will remain the major mode of communication; language-as-writing will increasingly be displaced by image in many domains of public

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communication, though writing will remain the preferred mode of the political and cultural elites. The combined effects on writing of the dominance of the mode of image and of the medium of the screen will produce deep changes in the forms and functions of writing. This in turn will have profound effects on human, cognitive/affective, cultural and bodily engagement with the world, and on the forms and shapes of knowledge. The world told is a different world to the world shown. (Kress, 2003: 1, his italics) During and beyond the period of transition – a time of uneasy coexistence between print and hypermedia (which may, of course, last a long time yet) – Darnton predicts that ‘book professionals [will continue to] provide services that will outlast all changes in technology’ (Darnton, 2009: xvi). Darnton includes editors, designers and marketing consultants among his ‘book professionals’, but surely creative writing teachers need to be counted there too. So what are teachers doing in reaction to the technology changes their students have to cope with? Adam Koehler, commenting on the proliferation of creative writing teaching research during and after the 2000s, observes: While all this work admirably approaches some of the urgent pedagogical, methodological, and institutional concerns developing in creative writing, one set of concerns … remains largely unaddressed: the ways in which creative writing, or creative writing studies, engages with, understands, responds to, and thrives in an age of digital writing. (Koehler, 2013) And what are these researcher/teachers’ departments doing about the problem? Joseph Moxley says in a vaguely hopeful way: Eventually innovative English departments will develop their own interactive writing environments to support the excellent works of their students. With students leading the way our disciplinary identity will be substantively revised. It’s just going to take a little time. (Moxley, 2010: 237) Koehler’s and Moxley’s comments reflect a current lack of motivation and mobilization in creative writing teaching. Central issues in a fundamentally changing discipline have not been addressed in pedagogy or in universities’ infrastructure. Many books have been published in the debate about technology change and the future of the book (e.g. Birkerts, 2006 [1994]; McGann, 2001; Nunberg, 1996; Striphas, 2011; Thompson, 2005; Vandendorpe, 2009 [1999], etc.) but major questions for creative writing teachers remain. Where is

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teaching creative writing headed? What will the fiction and non-fiction of the future look like? How significant are the changes we need to make? What new infrastructures must be put in place? Are we dealing with these matters too late? Are English departments as we know them really capable of handling these problems? Children grow up reading some of their books as apps now. I have seen infants try to turn the pages of paper books by swiping them. In various US, UK and Australian primary schools, iPads are distributed to pupils from first to fifth grade as the official learning device and their use is integrated into a wide spectrum of the curriculum including the teaching of writing, literature and technology (see, for example, Burley School, 2014; Department of Education Western Australia, 2014; Square Group, 2013). Leading publishers Pearson, Macmillan, Oxford University Press and others now produce university textbooks for iPad (Apple Inc, 2014). The study of the use of hypermedia in education has its own academic research journal: the Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia (JEMH) (AACE, 2014). However, as Jay David Bolter noted in 2011: Although many, perhaps most, novelists now use word processors to prepare manuscripts for publication as printed books, our literate culture still believes fiction belongs in the space defined by printing. (Bolter, 2011: 121) Despite extensive experimentation on the radical fringes, and a handful of notable exceptions in the mainstream (see, for example, Foer, 2006), the adult novel in the first two decades of the 21st century is still a print phenomenon at odds with the new literacy products informing primary and secondary school education. Constrained by the fact that adult mainstream publishing (as opposed to publishing for children) has been slow to embrace the range of hypermedia platforms for creative works, the teaching of creative writing at university level has remained significantly focused on paperpublished outcomes. Among the iPad apps for teenage fiction readers is the 2013 Bologna Children’s Book Fair prize-winning version of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse. This app novel is published jointly by children’s publisher Egmont and Touch Press. The publishers’ blurb says: The app features a specially filmed performance of War Horse by author Michael Morpurgo, accompanied by musicians John Tams and Barry Coope. It also features interviews with Michael Morpurgo filmed by award-winning arts media company Illuminations in Iddesleigh (Devon), where the novel begins and ends; historians discussing the First World

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War from the battlefields of the Western Front; the National Army and National World War I museums; and more. In addition to the abridged text used for the performance, the original book’s full text is included alongside a full audio reading, an interactive timeline packed with narrated quotes, war videos and artefacts, allowing the reader to delve into the historical background of the story. (Egmont, 2013) So, this is a work of fiction, of non-fiction, of history, and it is exegetical. It is richly illustrated with photography, graphics, moving pictures and multimedia cleverness. It incorporates various performances, including by the author, musicians and expert commentators, and has a number of soundtracks. It costs $6.99. This is the high end of hypermedia fiction publishing in the future – the kind of product we should be teaching towards and beyond.

Teaching New Forms of Writing In 2001, Jerome McGann called on humanities scholars and teachers to speed up their investigation into the possibilities of digital technology and to regard the computer differently: Digital technology used by humanities scholars has focused almost exclusively on methods of sorting, accessing, and disseminating large bodies of materials, and on certain specialized problems in computational stylistics and linguistics. In this respect the work rarely engages those questions about interpretation and self-aware reflection that are the central concerns for most humanities scholars and educators. Digital technology has remained instrumental in serving the technical and precritical occupations of librarians and archivists and editors. But the general field of humanities education and scholarship will not take the use of digital technology seriously until one demonstrates how its tools improve the ways we explore and explain aesthetic works – until, that is, they expand our interpretational procedures. (McGann, 2001: xi–xii, his italics) McGann’s book, Radiant Textuality: Literature After the World Wide Web, was directed at critical scholarship in English departments, but those who taught creative writing might have listened too. To the speed and ubiquity of digital intercourse and transaction have been added interface and multimedia, and that, as the poet said, ‘has made all the difference.’ Our sense of language will never be the same.


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Or rather, perhaps, our sense of it – in every sense – has been renewed, restored to something like the richness that it possessed in the Middle Ages. . . . (McGann, 2001: xii–xiii) To illustrate the computer’s potential impact on language, McGann used the image of the medieval cathedral where ‘the doors of human perception were flung open in those amazing multimedia environments’ (McGann, 2001: xii). Like Landow (1992) and Murray (1997) before him, McGann spoke eloquently in the situation where English departments were ‘slow to develop’ in response to the ‘digital space’ where ‘the language we use is woven from audible and visual elements’ (McGann, 2001: xi, xiii). Colleagues teaching composition were not as slow to respond. From the creative writing teacher’s point of view at university level, the most interesting research focused on the use of hypermedia in teaching has occurred in composition in relation to high school and college levels. The impressive burgeoning literature developed by the compositionists involves learning and teaching theory, application to practical process, assessment, and studies of the history of multimodal writing pedagogy. None of this concerns creative writing. Similarly, areas in media studies have focused on hypermedia as part of the writing process for, for example, games, websites, film and television, but these pedagogies have remained relatively isolated from the paper focus of the creative writing workshop. In addressing the question of teaching and learning in the creative writing discipline in the future, it is useful first to survey the pedagogy debates occurring in other parts of the campus, and at other levels of education. A group of works addresses directly the teaching of multimodal composition. Claire Lutkewitte’s 550-page Multimodal Composition: A Critical Sourcebook (2014) is a well-organized collection of 29 essays covering a full range of undergraduate classroom issues: what counts as multimodal composition and why it matters; making meaning with multimodal composition; matters of design; the dynamic nature of literacy and multimodal composers; assignments and assessment; and building a sustainable environment for multimodal composition. Rhetorics, composition theory, literacy, technology, new media, websites, visuals, voices, etc., are all focused on, but almost no attention is paid to poetry or fiction. Clearly, in Lutkewitte’s mind, creative writing belongs in a different discipline (which did not in 2014 have its own repository of scholarship for creating a sourcebook on multimodality). But the one moment where Lutkewitte’s excellent book discusses multimodal poetry is instructive. Cheryl E. Ball writes in an essay originally published in 2004:

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Megan Sapnar (2002), co-editor of the new media site Poemsthatgo (), which features Flash-based poetic texts, said: We have received many comments from ‘traditional’ readers of poetry and fiction who express reservations about the New Media format and who see images as ‘visual tricks’ that may give poorly thought out writing an appealing wrapper. One visitor commented, ‘Our attention may become distracted by the visuals thus making us less critical and more acceptant of anything, regardless of quality.’ But it’s my hope that this will give us an opportunity to raise the level of critical discourse regarding textual, aural, and visual literacy. (90–91) Although Sapnar spoke specifically about poetic texts, the notion that readers are less critical of a text when images are present is a typical academic argument against the need to critique, or even consider worthy, any new media text that employs non-alphabetic modes. Readers who are unfamiliar with the meaning potentials of such modes usually proffer this argument. (Ball, 2014: 171–172) Sadly, the situation pertaining in 2002 has not greatly changed. Behind the ‘traditional’ thinking that still holds sway in English and creative writing teaching lies a resistance to engage with new publishing, platforms and processes. In contrast, the compositionists have forged ahead. For example, Jason Palmeri’s Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy (2012) seeks to ‘recover composition’s multimodal heritage’ (Palmeri, 2012: 6): Long before the contemporary multimodal turn, compositionists have been articulating the deep interconnections between seeing and writing – experimenting with ways that visual composing can help students both generate ideas for and consider revisions of alphabetic texts. … Long before the rise of digital audio technologies, compositionists have been exploring ways that speaking and writing interanimate one another – elucidating how auditory classroom activities can help students invent and revise their print writing. . . . (Palmeri, 2012: 9–10) As I have shown, creative writing has a far richer heritage in rehearsing and testing the possibilities of multimodality in the processes of radical practitioners, if not in the pedagogy of the creative writing discipline.

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The ‘interanimation’ typical of multimodality is further investigated in Patricia Sullivan’s Experimental Writing in Composition: Aesthetics and Pedagogies (2012). Sullivan advocates for composition the importance of teaching experimental and alternative styles of writing – including mixed genres, fragmented texts, collages, experiments in grammar, and various multimedia texts – alongside or instead of the traditional forms and genres … [because they] critique the limits of normative forms of writing associated with academic discourse by invoking the liberating and critical power of art. (Sullivan, 2012: 1–2) Sullivan calls collage a ‘postmodern literacy genre’ and says ‘the collage form best represents the fragmented nature of postmodern self’, allowing students ‘to explore the dialectic between tradition and innovation in academic writing’ (Sullivan, 2012: 103). Collage helps them see ‘the constructed nature of what is considered to be the students’ own languages’ (Sullivan, 2012: 117). Literacy education, she says, ‘should be as much about teaching creative, aesthetic modes of writing as it should be about teaching conventions of academic writing’ (Sullivan, 2012: 118). In these works, compositionists come close to the lines of thought that have motivated radical creative writers. Other themes covered are: the relationship between multimodal writing and the body (Arola & Wysocki, 2012); the relationship between multimodal writing and the student’s normal life experience (Hicks, 2013); politics, place and identity in the new composing (Journet et al., 2012); and the dangers of teaching multimodality solely in traditional rhetorical terms which misrepresent the revolutionary possibilities of new media (Alexander & Rhodes, 2014). Composition studies have perceived the significance of new writing trajectories and have boldly moved to address questions such as: Is multimodal writing more aligned with writing ‘the self’ fully as opposed to the strictures involved with writing linearly? With the linear text imagination is paramount, but what happens to it with the new writing – is the new writing a portal to even greater use of the imagination? What degree of seamless integration and aesthetic value can we achieve working with multiple modes? The compositionists have asked questions right up to the door of the creative writing discipline.

The Situation for Creative Writing I am tempted to use Kress’s comparison of signs (see Introduction) as a metaphor for what is happening in universities teaching creative writing

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today, because so many creative writing courses occur in English departments. English departments, like the Salzburg Traffic Office, think they still have the power to insist on the single-mode written text as the definition of the novel and other forms. But like the soccer sign in the Salzburg street, the novel as monograph runs the risk of being less and less noticed by a new generation of readers moving by. Kress suggests that sign-writers, advertising agencies and web editors already know more about the reading and writing that will be done in the future than do English and creative writing departments. He begs us ask the question: How much do teachers of creative writing – and the students we are teaching – know about writing multimodally? The answer is, of course: very little. This is a whole new field, we protest. We had difficulty when Barthes said the reader makes the story; now Kress tells us the new reader makes the story out of several modes of input. It’s all too hard! Writing and literature have complex histories and we might go back to illuminated manuscripts as a multimodal form before the printing press, and how the first printed books carried on that tradition of multimodal illustration (e.g. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as printed by Caxton) before the burgeoning, bourgeois and commercially driven printing press eradicated the visual from adult literary reading. It seems the paper book (the codex) is to blame for the restrictions inherent in our monomodal reading capacity. All that sewing and gluing holding everything together unrelentingly at the spine sentenced us, it seems, to lives of reading in a linear fashion, page after numbered page, stuck between covers. Then, in spite of attempts by radical writers over centuries to free us, the computer, html and hypermedia came along, allowing text and the page to be technologically liberated from ink, glue, sewing and the chronological. Children were allowed images and radical layout far earlier, followed by readers of comics, graphic novels, technical manuals and other popular culture publications. As Kress and van Leeuwen noted: the layout of the densely printed page is still [in itself] visual, still carries an overall cultural significance, as an image of progress. … [Until the late 19th century] layout was not encouraged here, because it undermined the power of the densely printed page as, literally, the realization of the most literary and literate semiotic mode. … The genres of the densely printed page … manifest the cultural capital (‘high’ cultural forms) controlled by the intellectual and artistic wing of the middle class. (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006: 178–179) This raises questions such as: ‘Will multimodal texts acquire the personal and cultural meaning that works of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and drama

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have?’ And: ‘Shouldn’t the construction of multimodal texts remain being taught in graphic arts and in entertainment design?’ But also: ‘Should creative writing programmes be more blended with such programmes?’ It has been said that the older generation is grieving over the passing of the paper book, and we are still in the first stage of that process – denial. I agree with this. What we are also denying is the brilliant future of the book, the possibility that the multiply talented multimodal book can reach the literary heights we currently associate with the old form. But this is already happening. Not only do recently released iPad versions of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, The Wasteland, A Clockwork Orange, War Horse, and others like them provide exciting opportunities for enriched reading with an expanded set of creative possibilities, they also indicate the potential for multidisciplinary and cross-artform creative writing teaching. Clearly too the paper novel has been strongly influenced: multimodal novels such as Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2005), Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (2009), Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) and S. (2013) by J.J. Abrahams and Doug Dorst provide evidence that the multimodal can be employed in highly literate creative writing. The rise of creative writing in British and Australian universities in the 1990s and 2000s coincided with the rise of the computer and the internet. These two events are linked by the concept of interactivity. Hypertext showed readers that the reading process did not have to be passive. Of course, it never had been actually so – reading was always about interacting, reacting with one’s intellect, imagination and emotions. But hypertext extended the possibilities beyond the limits of the monograph into realms which had previously involved further and separate acts of production – the incorporation of visuals, the adaptation to performance, the addition of commentary and glossing mechanisms. In the paper book world, these extended possibilities were seen as value-added publishing, and were siloized into add-on categories. One publisher did the original novel. Another did the audio book. A third did the illustrated edition. A fourth published the author’s exegetical essays. Yet others did critiques of the book. Etcetera. And we have taught writing in this way. Making the original text is taught in the creative writing department, and the critical text in the English department. The visuals, if we want to include them, have to be done in the visual arts department. And if we want to teach the making of an audio version, well, there are performance experts downtown in the drama department. With hypermedia, however, the illustrated book, the play or film based on the book, the talking book, the index or concordance, the exegetical and critical discussions of the book – as we see with the app book – can be part of the book itself. Clearly now, the digital book can contain what was

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previously called research for, adaptation of, and extension to the text. This is the new definition of the book – a multimodal, multidisciplinary, multiartform entity. A multigraph, not a monograph. The idea of the text for the new book is encompassing; it involves many more awarenesses and potentially more skills. While this multifaceted text changes the way we read, it must change the way we write, and therefore the way we teach. The new writer becomes a cog in a larger production process than before – more like a very empowered scriptwriter – while the new writing becomes more about collaboration across artforms. It’s as if teaching creative writing just grew into teaching the creative arts. This provides challenges. To go back to my statement about the coincident rise of hypertext and creative writing in universities, I think students saw creative writing as itself the logical interactive response to a new kind of reading – in fact they found writing to be a more logical response than learning cultural or literary theory as context for their reading. In her influential 2006 book Reading Like a Writer, Francine Prose makes the claim that students did not react well in the 1980s after literary academia split into warring camps of deconstructionists, Marxists, feminists, and so forth, all battling for the right to tell students that they were reading ‘texts’ in which ideas and politics trumped what the writer had actually written. (Prose, 2007: 8) The migration of students away from literary studies in the 1990s was a retreat from the imposed contextualization of the text in a theory environment, and towards a new contextualizing in the digital environment where reading was defined by the greater interactive capabilities of html. Creative writing based on doing, as opposed to English based on critiquing, must have seemed more attractive in those circumstances as students recognized the changes in their own reading habits. The continuing migration of students from English courses to creative writing courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in the career-fixated 2010s suggests that students take into account the new literacy and the vast audience for electronic platforms. Joseph Moxley says: Technology matters. … If impact is a chief measure of success, then we can expect our students to seek access to the millions of online users as opposed to the one hundred or so people who might read an obscure literary print journal. . . . (Moxley, 2010: 237) I tell my students how excited I am about who will write the first Young Adult novel to go to the top of the charts: it will be done by one of their

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generation – an iPad app novel about an emerging boy or girl band that has a soundtrack included. I wish I’d had such a possibility in my future when I set out as a young writer. They look at me with maybe a glimmer of the future in their eyes when I say: Why don’t you write that as a multimodal novel on your iPhone? You’ve got a keyboard, a camera and a microphone pick-up. In the future, the writing, reading and teaching of new books cannot be the same – they will have to be multidisciplinary, or at least have multi-arts and cross-arts awarenesses built in. The ideal department for a creative writing programme will be a creative arts department where performance, visual arts, digital/new media arts, and music are also taught. English should be housed there too. If the current unrepentant, slow-moving English departments don’t catch up, they will have to move in with those other passing arts – history and philosophy (although these too have great scope for flourishing in the digital age). While tightening my bullet-proof vest even further, I’ll suggest that the English PhD is dead unless it becomes multi-arts oriented. Every doctoral submission in English should include a creative product – a work which shows that the lessons from reading have been truly learnt. And this begs the question: Why don’t English departments just roll over into creative writing departments? Teaching English in the future is obliged to be different because fiction, poetry and performance – their genres, products and dissemination – are already different in the digital era. The academic infrastructures we need for teaching writing in the future are significantly different from what we have now, and involve more collaboration between departments currently siloized and separated. This means more exposure for creative writing students to courses in other creative arts areas. The scary thing for creative writing staff is that most do not have a cross-artform background themselves. Creative arts people in general don’t like coming out from their silos because the academic silo is, after all, the garret protected by funding, teaching style, and PR potential. If one of our creative writing students does well, we don’t want to share her with the visual arts! And so on. There are universities already better set up for the new sort of creative writing teaching, while others are particularly vulnerable. Independent creative writing departments will need to decide their own strategies for the future, including linking with other creative arts and new media departments in their vicinity. Where creative writing programmes are part of an overarching and previously powerful English department, there will be problems if the formerly dominant partner, in pondering its viability, seeks to warp creative writing teaching back towards a failing critical-ideological

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pedagogy, as seems to be happening in the US with what is being called ‘craft criticism’ (Koehler, 2013; Mayers, 2007: 29–64). According to Mayers: The historical and material circumstances of craft criticism are the contemporary historical and material circumstances of English studies. … Craft criticism operates within the same system of exchange, reward, and marginalization as all of the other professional activities of English studies. (Mayers, 2007: 34) In the UK and Australasia we understand what Mayers terms ‘craft criticism’ to be the exegesis, or exegetical studies. They developed out of the writerly approaches taken for teaching and supervision in creative writing programmes, not out of the readerly interpretative approaches of English studies. Mayers defines craft criticism as ‘part of the broader field of “criticism”’ (Mayers, 2007: 35) and because of this, we should be wary of craft criticism as a desperate rear-guard action by English to impose its critical perspectives on creative writing. This is exactly the kind of study that put English departments offside with students in the first place. English departments are paper departments; they have difficulty doing the digital (Kirschenbaum, 2010; McGann, 2001). They also have difficulty doing the multimodal, since printed text alone is their speciality. Some few creative writing programmes are already housed in multidisciplinary creative arts schools where the notion of cross-artform and digitally oriented programmes works well. Clearly multidisciplinary teaching is the way forward in dealing with the more-than-just-text-and-print-based writing of the future. We must teach the multimodal and its implications to creative writing students. This requires change.

Radical Possibilities for Teaching Creative Writing In 1997 Janet Murray wrote: There are probably not two more difficult things to predict in this world than the future of art and the future of software. These visions of the future can only be speculations, extrapolations from the current environment, which is shifting even as I write. The computer is chameleonic. It can be seen as a theater, a town hall, an unraveling book, an animated wonderland, a sports arena, and even a potential life form. But it is first and foremost a representational medium, a means for modeling the world that adds its own potent properties to the traditional media it has


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assimilated so quickly. As the most powerful representational medium yet invented, it should be put to the highest tasks of society. Whether or not we will one day be rewarded with the arrival of the cyberbard [e.g. a multimodal writer to rival Shakespeare], we should hasten to place this new compositional tool as firmly as possible in the hands of the storytellers. (Murray, 1997: 284) To place the tool firmly in those hands, teachers must provide creative writing students with a new set of skills and understandings: if not in fact the ability to compose visual, performative and audio creations in multimodal arrangements, then at least an appreciation of theories informing image-, sound- and performance-making as arts practices and a history of the radical interactions across artforms that have occurred in the past (some of which have been covered in this book). Alongside this, the study of language and writing not isolated but in conjunction with other communicative and semiotic modes, such as that proposed by Kress and his colleagues, is essential. While the writer’s ‘language’ has changed – it is no longer merely made of words; it now includes images and sounds – the classic works of literature are nevertheless still deeply central to the work of the writer, but so too are the movies, audio books, comics and videogames that have been made from those classics, and others besides. The canon can no longer afford to exclude adaptation; the processes of adaptation are now central to the main work. And the work of the writer – from genre hack to literary master – is now more significantly a matter of collaboration with colleagues in other arts practices and production, and includes interactivity with readers/users/ consumers. The computer was the writer’s glorified typewriter in the 1990s; it is now the writer’s production factory, publishing house, postal service, meeting place and shopping mall. Murray’s vision of a creative writing future still holds true: I am drawn to imagining a cyberdrama [her version of a multimodal work] of the future by the same fascination that draws me to the Victorian novel. I see glimmers of a medium that is capacious and broadly expressive, a medium capable of capturing both the hairbreadth movements of individual human consciousness and the colossal crosscurrents of global society. Just as the computer promises to reshape knowledge in ways that sometimes complement and sometimes supersede the work of the book and the lecture hall, so too does it promise to reshape the spectrum of narrative expression, not by replacing the novel or the movie but by continuing their timeless bardic work within another framework. (Murray, 1997: 9–10)

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It is not hard to gauge the number of multimodal experiments which occurred in the creative writing classroom in the 20 years following Murray’s vision of a brave new world of digital writing. Some (but very few) academic articles with a focus on digital composing techniques have appeared in the creative writing research and pedagogy literature (i.e. in TEXT, New Writing, The Writer’s Chronicle, The Writer’s Notebook, etc.). In June 2014 The Writer’s Notebook published a piece by Steve Almond entitled ‘Consider the digital disruption’. Almond contended that ‘writers of literary fiction [are] not taking advantage of digital innovation as much as their colleagues who write genre fiction’ because literary authors … [are] not that interested in digital technology. They’re interested in stories and scenes and characters and language. … [M]ost people who choose to become writers of literary fiction have placed their faith in language and imagination. They like to believe that their sentences alone will be enough to compel the reader. (Almond, 2014) In spite of the fact that Almond is a successful author with an impressive website, he admitted (and seemingly without irony) that he felt ‘woefully out of step with the culture’ around him, and thought that ‘most literary writers already recognize this’. This is why we’re okay with shutting ourselves up alone and spending hours wrestling with language … this doesn’t make us more noble than other people. But it does mean that we’ve chosen a more reflective (and less convenient) way of moving through our lives. We seek to reach fewer people, but hopefully in a deeper way. That’s the basic deal we’re making as artists. No fancy gizmo, or enhanced platform, is going to change that. (Almond, 2014) According to Almond, literary writers prefer to restrict the outreach of intelligent writing rather than make the effort needed to contact a wider audience. Personally I find Almond’s statement alarming. Surely even the most literary of writers hopes to speak to all the world, believing in the significance of what s/he has to say. Perhaps Almond’s position explains why Murray’s vision of a digitally written classic has not yet come to pass. The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) represents thousands of creative writing teachers across the US and its publications reflect the debates those teachers have. Around the same time that the AWP published Almond’s article – seemingly a rear-guard thrust against multimodal writing and digital platforms – it also published in the Moveable Type


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column of The Writer’s Chronicle an interview with Ravi Shankar, founding editor of Drunken Boat, an online cross-arts magazine that publishes multimodally. In Drunken Boat poems are published with audio of readings attached; memoir blogs have their own filmic sequences; and literary fiction involves image, sound and text in crafted multimodal compositions. In the interview Shankar said: From the very beginning [since 1999] we tried to take advantage of the web; we try to include audio, imagery, videos, and interactive elements. Our investment is in web-based and web-born artwork in addition to more traditional work. It was a project to promote the work of the people we liked. And all of a sudden we started getting queries and submissions from the U.K. and people in Australia. And we hadn’t really promoted it. Once it started expanding, we realized we had hit upon something, we were fulfilling an unmet need. We could reach people from all over the globe with this little publication. We’ve just gone forward from there. With this online litmag medium … we’ve probably published over 1000 artists/writers. We never expected it to last this long. The opinion of web publication has really changed. . . . (Moveable Type, 2014: 55) Asked what the magazine was trying to do for readers and writers, Shankar said: Activate them in new and energetic ways. We really want our readers to be critically engaged with the work in a way that helps them make their own connection and create their own work. … We’ve published everybody from Pulitzer winners (Kay Ryan, Franz Wright), to people making their first publication. (Moveable Type, 2014: 55) Asked to define ‘good writing’, he replied: A really good poem doesn’t say, ‘look at me, look how interesting I am,’ but rather, says, ‘look at how interesting you, the reader, is.’ I like work that takes seriously ontological issues: what it means to be alive, what is the effect our culture is having on us, but not work that is overtly polemical. We’re big fans on ambiguity in the Keatsian sense, negative capability. (Moveable Type, 2014: 55) Shankar has transferred the attitudes of radical writers studied in this book to an internet site not only accessible in the online sense, but also in the

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readability sense. Drunken Boat is an excellent reading resource for a creative writing class seeking to write multimodally, and publication in its pages is an attainable aspiration for students. Clearly also, Drunken Boat provides a model which is relatively simple technically, although sophisticated artistically, for savvy creative writing teachers (and/or their helpful colleagues) to follow in creating their own class sites. Each issue of the magazine from its simplest beginnings in 1999 is available at – for inspiration. After Murray, article-length accounts of teaching multimodality in poetry, memoir and other literary forms began appearing, such as Schwartz (2009), Hodgson (2009) and Reiss and Young (2013). In longer form, Lance Olsen’s Rebel Yell: A Short Guide to Fiction Writing (1998) introduced the idea of teaching writing through non-traditional practices and promoted student understanding of process through writers such as Federman, Pell, Acker and Michael Joyce, while also harking back to pioneering works by James Joyce, Beckett, Faulkner, Nabokov and others. But the most significant publication for the classroom teaching of radical writing and its potential for multimodality was Hazel Smith’s The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing (2005). Smith said of her book: [it] draws heavily on my own work as a writer, and my own interest in technique, experimental writing and analytical approaches to the creative process … [and] my hybrid and intermedia approach to writing. My previous career as a professional musician, my collaborations with artists and musicians, and my love of film, the visual arts and music mean that I have constantly extended my writing beyond the purely literary, and have encouraged my students to do the same. (Smith, 2005: iv–v) Like Almond, Smith is a writer with literary aspirations, but unlike Almond she takes on the challenge of seeing literary writing in a broader context and wanting to teach it that way: As part of its experimental emphasis, [my book] also relates writing to other media and interweaves the verbal, visual and the sonic. Writing in the contemporary era needs to be redefined as a very broad category, which includes audiovisual projects, performance works, multimedia and hypermedia works, not just written texts. These kinds of creative endeavours are included, and encouraged, in this book. … The Writing Experiment is suitable for beginner and advanced writers. . . . (Smith, 2005: viii) Smith shows that the pedagogy for inspirational creative writing classes can be created with ideas taken from the mainstream’s margins (as Olsen did)


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and can be applied to writing which involves new technologies. Two of her chapters – ‘Tongues, talk and technologies’ and ‘New media travels’ – are supported by website material where works by Christian Bök, Brion Gysin, Jason Nelson, Komninos Zervos and 30 others (including her own work) can be accessed. Smith’s classroom exercises involve not only ideas for creating mixed media, hypertext and hypermedia pieces, but also simplified ‘starter’ versions of such work including composing performance or paper versions before moving to screen versions. The first collection of essays written by university teachers seeking to bring the teaching of creative writing effectively up to date is Clark, Hergenrader and Rein’s Creative Writing in the Digital Age: Theory, Practice, and Pedagogy (2015). This book covers theory topics involved with, for example, new workshop pedagogy, ways of (digitally) seeing, videogames as storygenerating systems for creative writers, and the marketability of new forms. Two teacher-writers sceptical about digital composition also contribute. The collection examines practice in the digital writing classroom by focusing on issues such as the usefulness of the 25-word story, writing with machines, telling stories with maps and rules, and author identity expression through creative non-fiction interplay with social media. Questions about multimodality are taken up in Adam Koehler’s ‘Screening subjects: Workshop pedagogy, media ecologies, and (new) student subjectivities’ and Christina Clancy’s ‘The text is where it’s at: Digital storytelling assignments that teach lessons in creative writing’. If a creative writing teacher takes up the challenge of devising a course or a component of a course aimed at teaching how to write the new fiction or poetry, supportive creative and critical resources are discussed in Clark et al.’s book. Beyond this, there exist publishing industry and production house websites such as those of The Publishing Lab (, the Computers and Composition Digital Press (CCDP) ( or The Bookseller’s (UK) blog Futurebook ( Also useful are blogs run by individuals such as Kate Pullinger’s My Secret Blog ( and Terry Pitts’ Vertigo: Where Literature and Art Intersect ( Helpful resources emanate from think tanks such as C21 Literature and its blog ( or the Institute for the Future of the Book’s If:book blog (www.futureofthebook. org/blog). Hopefully we will see blogs from creative writing courses themselves as they come online, similar perhaps to the blog produced by MIT’s MAS S95: Science Fiction to Science Fabrication course (www.scifi2scifab. Jennifer Rowsell’s Working with Multimodality: Rethinking Literacy in a Digital Age (2013) is a study that reports interviews with professionals

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pioneering the fields that creative writers need to be familiar with. It demonstrates how multimodal strategies operate in commercial situations. Among the lessons learned from her research – ‘important lessons about working with multimodality and about being creative’ – Rowsell reports that producers in various production houses see multimodality as ‘an act of storytelling’ and that ‘working with multimodality is not a solitary act … it relies integrally on collaboration, participatory structures, and communities of practice; … when working with multimodality, there is equality across modes used in everyday life’ (Rowsell, 2013: 12–13, her italics). Summing up, Rowsell said: When I hark back to the many conversations that I had with producers, there is a final … lesson that I learned: working with multimodality is an entirely human enterprise. Although multimodality, as it is seen throughout [my] book, deals with market demands, discipline-specific goals, and design conventions, ultimately, the produced text, whether it is a performance or documentary, circles back to the storyteller and his or her agentive role in its making. (Rowsell, 2013: 13) For creative writing teachers Rowsell confirms that the basics of the discipline are not in question: the writer as maker of narrative is still paramount, but the transmission of narrative has changed and the skillset of creative writing must change with that. Blogs on sites run by innovative publishing houses and book designers – analyzing their creative practices – are also useful to students and teachers. For example, the editors at The Publishing Lab (TPL) run an informative and educative website ( where they survey new hybrid industries and provide articles about making and publishing multimodal fiction and non-fiction books (see, for example, The Editors, 2013; Hernández, 2013b; Stevenson, 2013). ‘At TPL’, they say, ‘we track down, analyse and write about what semioticians call “multimodal texts”, though we usually refer to them as “hybrid texts”’ (The Publishing Lab, 2014), those that combine the skills of writers, image makers, designers, animators, etc. … these are the kind of works and of artistic relationships we are in need of nowadays. In our age we need storytellers and stories that don’t want to flatten us, or give us an anesthetic or to indoctrinate us in some way, but rather that want us to work hard. We need stories and storytellers that are demanding, and require that we have a reading attitude that is active and thoughtful if we want to get something of value from them. We


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believe that 21st-century narratives must both demand and create savage readers, not tame readers. We think this makes good training for being able to read all social narratives, the real world, with a critical stance. (The Editors, 2013) The type of ‘savagery’ the people at TPL refer to is presumably related to the radical passion and unstoppable commitment required to make and respond to ground-breaking literary works. But there is indeed a dark side to digital writing which creative writing teachers need to take cognizance of. While multimodality increases the possibilities for originality in a new work, it also allows significant opportunity for plagiarism and misuse of published materials. This is particularly an issue in the context of David Shields’ provocative book Reality Hunger (2011) – a cento academic work which uses almost none of the author’s own words except in his brief explanation of what he is doing – and Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing (2011) which begins with the idea that there are already too many texts in the world and advocates recycling them, then comes up with fascinating classroom exercises where creative writing students use plagiarism to gain insights into the functions of writing. Of course, appropriation is not a new part of creative writing. Sampled or mashed poetry appeared as early as the 3rd and 4th centuries with the Latin cento writers Geta and Ausonius, and radical writers, especially the Dadaists and Oulipians, have used techniques which ‘borrow’ and ‘bend’ other people’s work. Some of the problems in this increasingly complex area were addressed by Caroline Eisner and Martha Vicinus’s Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism: Teaching Writing in the Digital Age (2008), but plagiarism in new creative forms remains an unsettled and unsettling matter, and new writers need to be mentored. The Radical Fictions course I teach has seven weeks of discussion workshops based on critical, exegetical and creative readings (a booklet and website) followed by five weeks of practical workshops and presentations focused on the students’ developing creative projects. The topics in the first seven weeks are: • • •

Experiments with thinking about prose and fiction. Critical and exegetical readings provide a literature review and theory base for the course. Experiments with words. Critical and creative readings survey ideas about radical approaches to language and words on the page. Experiments with structure. Readings explore radical approaches to narrative shape including: nonlinear and multiple narratives (discontinuous, simultaneous and interspersed forms), cut-up, collage, random, nested, constrained and self-erasing narratives.

Teaching and Lear ning the New Creat ive Wr it ing

• • • •


Experiments with size, scope and range. Readings provide ideas about structural and elemental re-thinking when narrative scope and range are downsized through excision, or compressed. Experiments with visuals and graphics. Readings look at cross-artform practice where visual and textual elements are combined in prose narrative. Experiments with sound and text. Readings investigate cross-artform practice where aural and textual elements are brought together in prose narrative Experiments with the ‘Real’ and the ‘Fictional’. Readings track debates surrounding terms such as New Journalism, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Life Writing, etc., where the lines between fiction and non-fiction, the subjective and the objective, impression and fact in narrative have become technically blurred.

In the remaining five weeks of the course students give presentations about the progress of their projects and discuss each other’s work. For their presentations I stress that they must read and research in the area of their creative project beyond the course booklet and website. Radical Fictions is a final year bachelors course. In its first week I tell the students that they will learn to break all the rules they’ve been taught in writing classes before. At the end of the semester they say they wish they had been allowed to do this course first, rather than last, in their majors. I have in the past replied with the platitudinous ‘you need to learn the rules before you can understand how to break them well’. But these days I am far less convinced by my own response. In the last 15 years the world has changed, language has changed, and reading and writing have changed; the ‘rules’ are no longer the same. The Radical is no longer on the fringe; it must be looked at centrally now. Perhaps the students are right: Radical Fictions should be the first course they do. And perhaps its title should be changed – to ‘Fictions’. It seems to me that the most important thing we can teach creative writing students is an understanding of the value of the exegetical – of the need for writers to examine, analyze and articulate their writing process in the context of the discourse provided by what other writers and critical thinkers are doing and saying. I have written elsewhere about the exegetical in relation to higher degree research study (Krauth, 2002, 2011) as have others, and in my undergraduate Radical Fictions course I constantly remind students that a writer’s exegetical thinking counts for as much as, if not more than any other writing skill they develop. In this book I hope I have shown how the Radical in writing arose from writers’ deep analytical thinking about what was going on in literature, culture and technology over time. The Radical


Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

foregrounds process. Readers/viewers/listeners are more interested than ever in the processes by which creative works are made (see, for example, the popularity of the bonus materials on film DVDs, the exegetical material being published at the end of books, the tie-ins with websites, fandom, etc.). Publishing now has a clear project of ‘creating’ the writer/director/musician around and behind the book/film/album. Even if celebrity and bigger sales are bottom-line reasons for this, the resurrection of the author/maker/ performer is fully subscribed to in the ever-increasing paratextual. The writer is not dead, but the garret has been demolished. S/he is in full view now. I cannot help wanting to finish with mention of two publications which indicate how far the Radical, multimodality and their relationship with technology have advanced. These are Emily Dickinson’s The Gorgeous Nothings (2013) and Vladimir Nabokov’s The Original of Laura (Dying Is Fun) (2009). Each is a paper book but could as easily be a website or an app. Each involves publication of an original manuscript in its fragmented form, as opposed to being transposed into ‘publication’ form by the traditional set of editing and printing processes. The 52 Dickinson poems were originally written on scraps of envelopes and are photographically reproduced life-size here with both sides of the scrap shown. Nabokov’s unfinished novel was written on index cards and here they are photographically reproduced life-size with front and back printed on each side of the page and also with perforations so the reader can separate cards from book and read them as a stack just the way Nabokov would have handled them. Reading these works and knowing that the writers made their marks and handled these materials in these forms introduces a strongly tactile aspect to the experience. Seeing the texts in contexts other than the densely printed page adds a profoundly different emotional quality to the reading. These radical publications allow us to get closer to writer and work. I show these books to my Radical Fictions students and they seem amazed. The whole world of writing and publishing has shifted.


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Aarseth, Espen, 2, 104–105, 207 Abish, Walter, 74–76, 93, 207 Abrams, J.J., 104, 207 Acker, Kathy, 123, 201, 207 adaptation, 184, 194–195, 198 Almond, Steve, 199, 201, 207 Apollinaire, Guillaume, 3, 8–11, 22, 28, 36, 39, 46–50, 58, 207–208, 212 apps and app books, 1, 5, 91, 164, 181–184, 188, 206 app version, 129, 158, 183–184 Arp, Hans, xii, 52–53 art forms, 1, 5, 9, 11, 19–20, 40, 53–54, 60, 64, 110, 195, 198 artists, 4, 9, 21, 26, 44, 53, 67, 87, 91–92, 123, 199–201 arts, 1, 3–5, 8, 11, 17, 19–21, 27–29, 32, 40, 66–67, 91–92, 112, 140–141, 208–209, 211–212 arts practice, 28–29, 32, 44, 198 Atwood, Margaret, 84–85, 208 audio, 3, 167, 189, 200 audiotape, 133, 136 auditory, 5, 12, 34, 36, 177 Austerlitz, 88, 119, 168–170, 218 authorship, 2, 17, 37, 108 avant-garde, 1, 19–20, 44–45, 66–67, 174, 210, 212, 214, 216–217

Baudelaire, Charles, 29, 208 Beat generation writers, 76, 133 Beauvoir, Simone de, 119, 210 Beckett, Samuel, 40, 62, 88, 131–133, 136, 201, 208 Behn, Aphra, 24, 208, 212 Benjamin, Walter, 4, 20–21, 209 Blake, William, 30–31, 209 blogs, 165, 202–203, 213 body, 26, 28–30, 32, 48, 59, 61, 89–90, 103, 138, 155, 166, 192, 208–209, 214 body language, 149 Bök, Christian, 72–73, 209 books, 85–86, 93–94, 102, 105–106, 137–139, 147, 154–155, 157–159, 162–164, 181–182, 187–188, 206–207, 210–212, 217, 219–220 Borges, Jorge Luis, 84–86, 209 Bory, Jean-Francois, 94, 209 boxes, 2, 65, 99, 104–105, 129, 158 Breton, Andre, 56, 58, 141–142, 209 Brill, Dorothee, 19, 34–37, 209 Bruges-la-morte, 22, 119, 217 Buñuel, Luis, 56–58, 209–210 Bunyan, John, 22, 124, 126, 210 Burgess, Anthony, xii, 68, 131, 163, 210 Burroughs, William S., 22, 62, 117–118, 133–134, 136, 210

‘Babysitter, The,’ 111–112 Ball, Hugo, 53–54 Barth, John, 88, 93, 116, 134–136, 161–162, 208 Barthelme, Donald, 84, 120–121, 208 Barthes, Roland, 2, 38–39, 74, 76, 136, 165, 193, 208

Cage, John, 41, 131, 178–179 calligrammes, 10, 22, 46–47, 49, 207, 212 Calvino, Italo, 63, 70, 74, 82, 84, 110, 119, 139, 210 Campbell, Wayne, 152–153 chapbooks, 144 221


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characters, 25, 28, 41–42, 74, 76, 93–94, 100, 110, 112, 117, 124, 144, 148, 173, 175 Chesterton, G.K., 106–107, 210 Chien Andalou, Un, 56–57, 74, 93, 101, 142, 210 children, 17, 112, 137–145, 147, 149–160, 167, 188, 193, 209, 219 children’s books, 15, 98, 106, 121, 139, 144, 147, 152, 154, 156–157, 159, 215–216, 219 children’s literature, 15, 17, 121, 137–139, 142–144, 159–160, 210 children’s writers, 140, 144, 155, 157, 159 Clockwork Orange, A, xii, 68, 131, 163, 183, 194, 208, 210, 217 collaborations, 106, 108–109, 160, 195–196, 198, 201, 203 collage, 11, 16, 21, 33–35, 45–46, 76–77, 91, 131, 133–134, 142, 192, 204, 211 colour, 13, 80, 139, 151–152, 164, 170–171 communication, 12–13, 36, 50, 52, 162, 186–187 complexity, 27, 33–34, 59, 89, 140, 158, 171 composition, 13, 26–28, 38, 66, 85, 99–102, 104, 108, 135, 185, 190, 192, 215–219 compositionists, 190–192 computers, 3, 62, 65, 104–105, 162, 168, 179, 189–190, 193–194, 197–198, 202, 209, 213 computer screen, 9, 11–13, 15, 60–61, 119 concrete poetry, 94–95 concrete prose, 22, 93–94 constraints, 25, 70, 72–74, 79, 84, 93, 140, 165–166 conventions, 18–19, 28, 55, 58, 76, 84, 87, 96, 101, 110, 114–115, 158, 165, 168 Coover, Robert, 62, 84, 111–114, 119, 162, 165–166, 210 Cortázar, Julio, 64, 78, 84, 88, 102, 136, 166, 210 creative arts, 20, 45, 55, 195–196 creative writers, 1, 180, 182, 184, 186, 202–203 creative writing, teaching of, 6, 188, 202 Crick, Mark, 82–83, 210 critics, 2, 5, 21–22, 63, 135, 171

Cubists, 16, 28, 33–34, 37, 46, 51, 117 culture, 9, 12, 20–21, 23, 25, 46, 50, 57, 59, 61, 69, 159, 163, 199–200, 205 cummings, e.e., 44, 94, 151–152, 210 cut-up, 21, 26, 34, 50, 60, 111, 118, 120–121, 133, 204 Dada and Dadaists, 16, 19, 21–22, 34, 36–37, 50, 53–55, 134, 136, 140, 204, 208–209, 213, 215, 220 Dadaist Poem, How to Make, 22, 93, 118, 215 Dalí, Salvador, 56–58, 210–211 Darnton, Robert, 186–187, 210 design, 11, 19, 64, 93, 134, 150, 159–160, 168, 171, 180, 190 digital age, 1, 3–5, 16, 159, 165, 196, 202, 204, 210–213, 215, 217, 219 Dos Passos, John, 117, 211 ‘Dr. Seuss’ (T. Geisel), 137, 152, 154 Drunken Boat, 200–201 Dworkin, Craig, 41, 92, 211 ebooks, 158, 180, 182–184 Eco, Umberto, 80–81, 119, 164, 168–170, 211 editors, 5, 58, 63, 106–107, 129, 180, 187, 189, 203–204, 219 education, 15, 23, 30, 71, 137–138, 160, 188, 190, 207–208, 210, 214, 218 Egan, Jennifer, 168, 177–179, 194 Eggers, Dave, 105 Eliot, T.S., 44, 150, 163, 182, 211 Éluard, Paul, 22, 58–60 English departments, xi, 5–6, 186, 188–190, 193–194, 196–197 Ernst, Max, 57–58, 120–121 exegesis and exegetical, 24, 28, 40, 44, 69, 135, 163, 184, 189, 194, 197, 204–205, 214 experience, 29–30, 57, 59, 63, 65–66, 112, 114, 118, 121, 127, 129, 175, 177, 206, 209 experimental fiction, 6, 21, 40, 110, 219 experimental writers, 1, 3, 16, 23, 66, 91, 111, 139–140, 164 experimentation, 1, 7, 11, 16, 24, 27, 40–41, 44, 86, 105, 119, 135–136, 150, 160, 188

Inde x

Exquisite Corpse, 141–142, 209 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, 119, 168, 171, 173, 194, 211 Faber & Faber, 183, 209, 213 facial expressions, 13, 146, 149 Facile, 22, 58–60, 211 fandom and fanfiction, 165, 206 Faulkner, William, 6, 40, 110, 117, 125–126, 128, 201, 211 Federman, Raymond, 22, 41, 62–64, 67, 94–97, 114, 136, 201, 210–211, 219 fiction flash, 28, 84, 219 hypertext, 128, 164 short, 84, 108, 111 Fielding, Henry, 25, 110, 211 film, 12, 14, 40, 44, 53, 57–58, 81, 108, 146, 149, 157, 171, 183–184, 190, 194 Finnegans Wake, 69, 213 flipback, 181, 213 Foer, Jonathan Safran, xiii, 88, 93, 119, 124, 164, 168, 171, 173, 175–177, 188, 194, 211, 218, 220 fragments, 21, 58, 77, 93, 96–97, 112–113, 119, 142 ‘Frame-Tale,’ 93, 104, 162 Frye, Northrop, 11, 212 games, 38, 138, 140–142, 148, 181, 190 Garner, Helen, 112–114, 212 Gass, William H., 6, 22, 30, 32, 62, 87–91, 119, 212 genres, 15, 41, 79, 86, 91, 93, 104, 192–193, 196, 213 Ginsberg, Allen, 117–118, 133, 212 graphics, 7, 39, 44, 81, 88, 119, 123–124, 131, 155, 168, 171, 178, 180, 184, 189 Grosz, George, 35 Gysin, Brion, 77, 117–118, 133–134, 136, 212 Harper, Graeme, 185, 212, 220 Hayles, Katherine, 168, 171, 212 Herbert, George, 6–7 Hernández, Alberto, 180, 203, 213 Higgins, Dick, 6, 9, 213 Hill, Eric, 99, 149, 154


Huelsenbeck, Richard, 36, 213 Hugnet, Georges, 34, 60–62, 213 Humument, A, 91, 175, 209, 212, 216 hypermedia, 1–3, 7, 12, 16–17, 20, 22, 41, 65, 88, 91, 164, 184, 186–188, 190, 193–194 hypertext, 1–2, 16, 22, 65, 67, 104, 119, 164–165, 194–195, 202, 209, 215, 220 images, 12–15, 52, 56–59, 61–62, 89, 91, 119–122, 140–142, 144, 152–155, 167, 186–187, 190–191, 193 moving, 42, 146 original, 122, 167 printed, 143, 168 imagination, 7, 55, 72, 78, 90, 128, 192, 194, 199 internet, 165, 181, 185, 194 iPad, 6, 92, 102, 104, 156, 158, 162–163, 183, 188, 208, 210, 216, 218–219 Jackson, Shelley, 104, 119, 128, 166 Jenkins, Henry, 165, 213 Johnson, B.S., 6, 41, 102–104, 166, 181, 213 Joyce, James, 6, 40, 64, 69–70, 79, 117, 150, 213–214 Joyce, Michael, 119, 162, 166, 201 Koehler, Adam, 187, 197, 214 Kostelanetz, Richard, 11, 19, 214 Krauth, Nigel, 30, 60–61, 130, 205, 214 Kress, Gunther, 12–16, 65, 88, 101, 186–187, 193, 198, 214 Larsen, Reif, 184, 215 Lawrence, D.H., 28, 30, 32, 79, 81, 107, 215 layout, 7, 9, 15–16, 53, 93, 171, 193 learning, 16–17, 135, 138, 157, 185, 187, 189–191, 193, 195, 197, 199, 201, 203, 205 length, 40, 51, 57, 59, 84–85, 178 literacy, 60, 128, 159, 161, 190, 214, 216, 220 Lost in the Funhouse, 116, 134–135, 208 Lüthi, Louis, 88, 215


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Magnetic Fields, The, 56, 209 mainstream, 3, 6, 16–17, 19, 37–38, 41, 119, 155, 164, 168, 182, 188 maps, 95–96, 104, 124–129, 165, 181, 184, 202, 208, 211 Mathews, Harry, 28, 70, 215 Mathews, Harry & Brotchie, Alastair, 71–72, 74 Maus, 123–124, 218 Mayers, Tim, 197, 215 McGann, Jerome, 187, 189–190, 197, 215 McLean, Kristen, 156–157, 215 meaning, 2, 12–14, 18, 33, 37–39, 75–77, 81, 88, 94–95, 101, 113, 131–132, 139, 152, 176 media, new, 159, 168, 174, 190–192, 207, 214–215 Meggendorfer, Lothar, 44, 147–149, 215 memory, 38, 49, 81, 102–104, 166, 211 modes, 12, 14, 19, 30, 32, 34, 54, 59, 61, 128–129, 134, 167–168, 186–187, 191, 193 monograph, 163, 193–195 Morpurgo, Michael, War Horse, 188, 194, 211, 219 movements, 3–4, 19–21, 32, 44, 55, 87, 143–144, 149, 186 Moxley, Joseph, 187, 195, 216 multimodal, 11–13, 16, 33–34, 37–38, 41, 59–60, 64–65, 138, 142, 157–158, 171, 174, 190, 192–197, 199 multimodal composition, 136, 190, 208, 215 multimodality, 12–13, 15–16, 21, 32–33, 114, 190–192, 201–204, 206–207, 214, 217 multimodal literacy, 30, 157–158 multimodal texts, 13–14, 38, 193–194, 203 multiplicity, 19, 21, 117–118, 163, 182 Murray, Janet, 190, 198, 201, 216 music, 4, 8–12, 14, 17, 20, 40, 44, 64, 70, 76–77, 81, 90–92, 130–132, 196, 201 musicians, 4, 9, 189, 201, 206 music score, 129, 131 Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, The, 119, 169–170, 211 Nabokov, Vladimir, 64, 201, 206, 216 Naked Lunch, 22, 117–118, 133, 210

narrative, discontinuous, 25, 110–111, 119, 204 narrative structure, 17, 42, 44, 69, 72, 110–113, 115, 136 narrator, 94, 96, 112–113, 136 new forms, 1, 6, 15, 23, 25, 85, 97, 166, 202, 208 new technologies, 17, 35, 134–135, 159–161, 164, 183, 202 Nin, Anais, 33, 64, 216 non-fiction, 40, 129, 170, 176, 184, 188–189, 193, 205 ‘Ocean-Letter,’ 36, 49–50 Olsen, Lance, 67, 124, 162, 201, 216 Ong, Walter J., 14–15, 216 Oulipo and Oulipians, 70, 72, 74, 204 pages black, 42, 88 blank, 41–42, 88, 129, 131, 173 paper, 16, 98, 158, 162, 168, 177, 185 static, 41, 99 tab-pull, 148 text, 88, 128, 180 paintings, 8–11, 14, 24, 28, 30, 34, 41, 44, 46, 51, 91, 105, 131, 175–176, 181 Palmeri, Jason, 191, 216 pedagogies, 187, 190–192, 197, 201–202, 210, 216, 219 Pell, Derek, 81–82, 121–122, 201, 216 Perec, Georges, 70–72, 74, 216 performance, 17, 20, 32, 36, 40, 44, 53, 129, 133, 154, 184, 189, 194, 196, 202–203 Phillips, Tom, 91–92, 175–176, 216 photographs and photography, xiii, 4, 9–10, 22, 39, 44, 58–60, 118–119, 167, 169, 171, 173, 179–181, 184, 189 pictures, 6, 14, 27–28, 35, 44, 124, 141, 147, 149, 154–155, 158 Pilgrim’s Progress, The, 22, 124, 126, 210 plagiarism, 204, 211 platforms, 80, 104, 158–160, 163, 191 digital, 1, 5–6, 158–159, 199 playscript, 40, 89, 122, 129 plot, 24, 64–65, 76–77, 90, 93, 110–112, 114, 126–127, 181

Inde x

poetry, 5–6, 30, 32, 44–45, 49, 53–54, 69–70, 73, 129, 163–165, 167–168, 190–191, 193, 196, 201–202 Powell, Padgett, 72–73 printed page, 1–2, 5, 14–15, 98, 119, 174, 177, 180, 193, 206 printing press, 4–5, 7, 98, 121, 168, 193 processes, 2–4, 6–7, 12–13, 16, 19, 56, 59–60, 72, 77–78, 100, 108–109, 120, 135–136, 176, 190–191 creative, 8, 56, 58, 201 writer’s, 114 publishers and publishing, 17, 20, 22, 40–42, 96, 99, 102, 105, 156, 158–159, 163–165, 184–186, 188, 206 publishing, children’s, 99, 140, 143, 157, 159 Publishing Lab, The, 78, 124, 180, 202–204, 213, 218–219 Pullinger, Kate & Joseph, Chris, Flight Paths, 12, 202, 217 Queneau, Raymond, 79–81, 217 Radical Fictions course, 22, 204–205 Radicality, 26, 33, 139 radical practice, 18–19, 44–46, 63 radical processes, 19, 22 radical writers, 2, 25, 44, 63, 86, 113, 161, 165, 193, 200, 204 Rawle, Graham, 77–79, 217 Ray, Man, 22, 33, 44, 58–60, 141, 211 reading paths, 13, 15, 101–102, 114 Rebel Yell: A Short Guide to Fiction Writing, 216 remediation, 6, 179–180, 209, 217 rhythms, 6, 33, 53, 77, 151, 154 Richardson, Samuel, 24, 79, 124, 217 Roberts, Kevin, 95–96, 217 Rodenbach, Georges, 22, 119, 217 rules, 48, 55–56, 73, 81, 106, 136, 158, 181, 202, 205 Sade, Marquis de, 26, 28, 45, 81, 217 Saporta, Marc, 99–100, 102, 166, 217 Schwitters, Kurt, sound poem Ursonate, 53 screens, 5, 7, 13, 62, 88, 159, 162, 164, 174, 177, 186–187 Sebald, W.G., 88, 124, 164, 168–170, 218


Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, The, 88, 174, 184, 194, 215 Sendak, Maurice, 147, 154–155, 218 sentences, 26, 64, 68–69, 73–74, 78, 97, 136, 141, 199 Shapton, Leanne, 170–172, 211, 218 short stories, 23, 40, 84–85, 93, 106, 120, 134, 164, 208 silence, 69, 96–97, 131, 178–179, 218 Simultanism, 34, 36 Smith, Hazel, The Writing Experiment, 201, 218 songs, 30, 69, 130, 133, 151, 178, 209, 220 sound poem, 53–54, 136 soundtrack, 12, 42, 130–131, 133, 189, 196 speech, 13–14, 68, 162 Stein, Gertrude, 26–28, 56, 117, 150–152, 218 Sterne, Laurence, 3, 6–7, 9, 21, 41–43, 45, 114–115, 129 Stevick, Philip, 40, 219 Stomann, Allan, 152–153 stories, 44, 74–75, 77–81, 84–85, 93–94, 96–97, 100–101, 107–108, 111–115, 119–120, 130, 134–136, 165–166, 202–203, 214–215 storytellers and storytelling, 99, 111, 117, 119, 136, 158–159, 167, 198, 203 structures, 6, 19, 21, 23–24, 27, 30, 38, 40, 53, 65, 69, 100, 112, 114–115, 135 style, 33, 77, 79–83, 140, 192, 215, 217 Sukenick, Ronald, 62, 64–67, 219 Sullivan, Patricia, 19, 192, 219 Surfiction, 63, 210–211, 219 Surrealism and Surrealists, 16, 19, 21, 28, 45–46, 55, 58, 59–62, 74, 93, 140, 142, 209–210 Swift, Jonathan, 24–25, 128, 219 teachers and teaching, 5–6, 16–17, 62, 154, 159, 185, 187–199, 201–204, 207–208, 213, 217, 220 teaching and learning, 16–17, 185, 187, 189–191, 193, 195, 197, 199, 201, 203, 205 television, 13–14, 64, 112, 168, 190 textual, 6, 12, 34, 36, 38, 88, 120–122, 154, 164, 169, 171, 191 Thirlwell, Adam, 98, 219


Creat ive Wr it ing and the Radical

Thoreau, Henry, 29–30, 219 touch, 29, 32, 64, 66, 82, 134, 175, 183–184, 210 Touch Press, 182–183, 188, 218–219 tradition, 13, 18–19, 23, 30, 63, 75, 84, 119, 136, 192–193 translation, 4, 59–61, 108 tree of codes, 93, 175, 177, 211, 218, 220 Tristram Shandy, The Life and Opinions of, 7, 9, 41–43, 88, 114–115, 124, 129, 217–218 typography, 2, 49, 152, 154, 171, 173–174 Tzara, Tristan, 34, 36, 50–56, 58, 60, 93, 118, 213, 219–220

Visual Editions, 99, 108, 124, 175, 179, 211, 217–220 visual images, 2, 39, 77, 169 visuals, 3, 6–7, 11–13, 17, 33, 39, 44, 49, 119–120, 139, 143, 190–191, 194, 205, 209 voice, 28, 30, 32, 55, 63, 83, 108, 117, 129, 132–133, 135–136, 178, 190 voices non-authorial, 134–135 real-seeming fictional, 24 recorded authorial, 134 Volans, Henry, 183, 220

Ulmer, Gregory, 45–46, 220 Unfortunates, The, 102–104, 213

‘Waste Land, The,’ 163, 182, 212, 219 Watt, 131–133, 208 websites, 5, 13, 20, 69, 85, 128, 163, 167, 190, 205–206 white syntax, 95–96, 217 Whitman, Walt, 29–30, 220 Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife, 22, 32, 89–90, 119, 212 Winesburg, Ohio, 126–127, 207 Woman’s World, 77–79, 217 Woolf, Virginia, 6, 33, 79, 150, 220 Writer’s Chronicle, The, 199–200, 216 Writer’s Notebook, The, 199, 207 Wu Ming, 108, 220

Valéry, Paul, 3–4, 20, 220 Vanderslice, Stephanie, 185, 220 van Leeuwen, Theo, 13–16, 88, 101, 193, 214 videos, 163, 167, 182–183, 200, 217 viewer, 53, 59, 158, 167, 206, 210 viewpoints, narrative, 112, 117, 135 Visit from the Goon Squad, A, 177–179, 194, 211 visual arts, 17, 20, 37, 40, 46, 51, 70, 87, 196, 201