Monday, December 1, 2008

This is not a joke, but it's a damn funny one.

So, one of my favorite writers (and fellow Binghamton University grad) Kass Fleisher, is teaching my novel Abecedarium (written with Carlos Hernandez), and she posed this question to me over email:

Is the book "just" a game? Why would she ask this, you ask?

Well, here's the "Note on Process" which opens the text:

A Note on Process:

The ten chapters of this “sudden” novel were composed collaboratively by Carlos Hernandez and Davis Schneiderman during five separate writing sessions. For each session, we would compose at separate computers located in the same small bedroom in Ithaca, NY.

After a period of simultaneous composition, we would switch seats to edit/overwrite the other author’s work, changing, altering, and adding whatever we chose.

Then, we would switch seats again and work similarly on our “original” compositions, repeating this process beyond these three iterations during a brief editing period (that occurred after all ten chapters had been produced as described).

In this way, we were thus encouraged to lose ourselves in the work so that a third mind that moves between us could develop.

That third mind is “Fex.”


Additionally, we had a few "guidelines" for each chapter: there should always be mention of a carnival dragon and foie gras, and, most importantly, as Carlos recently reminded me: Fex never loses.

I'll share my answer to Kass here:

I recall that the old Church of the Sub-Genius used to say, this is not a joke, but it’s a damn funny one. The method of Abecedarium produces results perhaps more quickly, through its constraint, than the writer in his garret staring at a blank page.

The ancient Greeks spent a good amount of time arguing about whether differently weighted objects would fall at different rates.

Well, Socrates, climb up on the roof and drop some shit.

This collaborative method is something to do, now, and is no more merely of a game than the works of the Oulipo, Joyce (think of colors and organs and charts in Ulysses), the Surrealists, Dada, and the screeds of all sorts of pomo authors from Burroughs, to Abish, to Nabokov, to Borges, to Raymond Federman, to Acker, to Steve Tomasula, to Shelley Jackson, to Joe Amato, to Fleisher, et al.

Because these types of texts often foreground their methodologies, and often use material-based tactics (cut-ups, pla[y]giarisms, etc), the works are sometimes dismissed as games because structures becomes more than background. This is a paradox: the best realist novels—let’s say even something like Sister Carrie—has a discernible structure that simply seems hidden because we don’t think about the structure of dominant narrative.

In other words, Abecedarium is a game in the same way as Dickens, Norris, Steinbeck, and everyone else. Let’s not even bring in Diderot, Sterne, Swift, etc...

Which is to say, it’s not a game, but it’s a damn fun one to play.

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