Genre Experimentation

I looked at the contents list to B. J. Hollars, Blurring the Boundaries (pdf here) and selected three chapters that sounded interesting to me. The second half of most of these chapters is some kind of critical reflection on an aspect of the first, titled ‘On [chapter title]: [subtitle]’. I read both parts of these three:

  • The Structure of Trouble by Marcia Aldrich, which is about the author’s reminiscences and mind-map type connections on the word trouble.
  • The Eighteenth Week by Monica Berlin, which has two parallel threads: a woman who is 18 weeks pregnant and has just found out that there’s something wrong with the baby and, at the same time, she is experiencing men making repairs to her house.
  • Time and Distance Overcome by Eula Biss, which marries research on telegraph poles with found facts about lynchings from the same poles.

Then I applied myself to these questions:

  • What were their authors exploring, and what did they hope to achieve from their genre experimentation?
    I feel that MA wanted to surface her feelings about her mother and how they connected to the word trouble and the influence of both these concepts (trouble and mother) on her own life and her behaviour within it.
    MB was exploring a parallel universe where her unborn baby (now born) was unwell in some unspecified way. It’s all rather avant-garde. I have no idea what she wanted to achieve. Something about the experience of illness from a remote POV?
    EB wanted to explore telegraph poles but found that many reports on them also included details of lynchings from them. She merged the two subjects in a powerfully repetitive report that borrows from journalism and horror stories with the intent of conveying ‘a relentless, uncomfortable repetition’.
  • What can you take from their experiments that might benefit your own writing and thinking?
    I think that I already write somewhat like MA and so I take heart that I can continue to do so and have an audience.
    The only way I could benefit from MB’s writing is to realise that it’s possible to be coherent and incoherent at the same time. Putting words in the right order is not the same as making them make sense.
    I feel that I have a newfound appreciation of the power of repetition after reading EB’s piece. Yes; a very deeply felt appreciation.

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