Experimental prose that plays with form can be an exhilarating exploration of breaking form, playing with the fourth wall, breaking down text to parallel emotional collapse or motion. The play is an intellectual exercise and when done well it adds context, layers, meta-textual commentary and the raw excitement of form breaking with cohesion and intent. The rarer work is the one that both plays with form in fresh ways and resonates emotionally with the experimentation building the resonance. In her new novel American Mary, Alexandra Naughton has told a narrative that is emotionally raw and profound with ruptures of form throughout the text that are both conceptually exhilarating and immediately rich with emotional resonance. The novel is a moving and at times harrowing ride through the journey of a young woman in the world and relationships as well as a thrilling example of the emotional and intellectual ballast of experimentation with blank space and form.
Yeah this class is so boring. I mean he just goes on and on and that hair is so obviously a self conscious decision I mean who wakes up and says “I hope I don’t get that beehive thing on my head again while I ride my bike to work smoking a pipe”? I love looking out the window when he has his back turned. A bird one time sat in a tree looking like he wanted to fly in just to do laps. It was amazing as the mid morning light glowed around this fellow bored entity as the man droned on. I just want to graduate someday, get a decent wage and move the pretentious haired man into a dot to shrink away to nothing. He smells like pipe smoke and lunch meat. He laughs at his own jokes. He parked his bike outside class one time by just dropping it. I mean who just drops a bike but someone who either wants spectacle or more attention or both. He is going on about those weird ideas again. I miss that bird.
Edward Foont’s note to himself found 70 years later in a heap of things in a storage closet at Princeton
Professor: Albert Einstein
In the last year I lost a dog, crashed a car, gained a number on the heap that is my age, went on some dates,lost a fiance, got 7 hair cuts and lost a bit more faith in the world.
They found a city under a basement. I read about it in a book for some class with some name and some teacher droning on and on somewhere in my almost eaten away memories of that year in college. Imagine that. I am thrilled if I find an extra can of Spaghettios behind a box of stale cereal, a few odd orphan coins in the couch under the cushions. There were tunnels and staircases and different types of homes and stores and it was all under his crappy carpet. The guy only found this whole lost world because he had wood rot. I am 53 years old and my luck the wood rot would find mold which would find termites which would find wasps which would find angry disturbed ants which would irritate moths which would fly in panic irritating rats which would really piss of bats in the trees outside really annoying rabid wombats severely setting off the before unseen packs of deeply neurotic feral cats that would make such a racket it would drive to drink the once alcoholic vampires in the forests thereby really rubbing the wrong way the trying to be vegan werewolves ultimately sending a shivery wave across the land of general annoyance. Yep, that would suck.
It is so cozy watching things from behind a window. I noticed as a teenager sitting in the back as friends drove out to nowhere to de-stress during finals that window down it was hot, dusty, things almost seemed to want to move, cross the roads as we headed out of L.A, run in front of the wheels of my friend’s dad’s car. It was almost like cacti might jaywalk at random or grab my hand as it fluttered in the artifical breeze of speed of the aging station wagon and try to jump on in. The thought (classic vintage of my worry addled and ever spinning turbine brain…) was for a few miles fascinating as we all listened to music and static battle on the weak radio then not so relaxing, troubling even.
I rolled up the window that afternoon and something happened. The cactus, road signs, dust and other things seemed suddenly academic, distant, like pictures in an old encyclopedia and so passive and safe. Something about this was very soothing. We drove another hour or so before turning around and it was like things were more at ease in the world even with finals beginning the next day. It was something I learned later to come to quite often really.
I almost died last summer. The flu hit in the middle of the hottest day of the year and like the cliché of an unbalanced spurned lover it just would not let go. I wish I could find better words, that is such a corny metaphor but maybe the darkness and familiarity of it being recent just takes any cleverness off to a far distance. It was as though my body grew to hate me, to want to give up, just peel off the bones and go. The drive to the hospital felt like my kind neighbor who happened by to ask about an old comedy show on you tube was going 5 miles an hour on tires made of glue and feathers. It was an ugly slow kind of forever.