Sunday, November 02, 2008

Say Hello to Mr. Deadman

Over the past several years I've been tinkering away at several literary projects, all of them series of related short pieces, the M.O. that works best for me as a writer. One of these series is called "Mr. Deadman," and follows the adventures of the eponymous hero. It's still a work in progress, but several months ago I decided that I'd composed enough sections to start publishing excerpts. The first group has just been published on the website The Cafe Irreal.

The Cafe Irreal was one of the first places I thought of for these pieces. In web time it's a venerable journal, having been online since 1998. It features non-realistic writing in the tradition(s) of Kafka, Borges, and Calvino, to name a few of the most important literary forbears. Irrealism is one of a number of overlapping terms that have been applied over the years to non-realistic, "non-traditional" literature. When I was getting started as a writer in the 'seventies, the term was very much in vogue. Other terms that were used to describe the type of writing that I was attempting and being influenced by included "experimental," "innovative," and that old favorite, "avant garde."

For me, all of these terms are limited and limiting. I find "experimental" and "innovative" too descriptive of process or intent, too slippery and vague when it comes to actually describing the work, and needlessly scary to many readers who would probably enjoy much of this work. To a great degree, there was a certain self-congratulatory trap that experimental/innovative writers fell into back in the 'seventies, some implicitly and others explicitly claiming an esthetic (and sometimes moral) superiority for these approaches while John Gardner, Cynthia Ozick, and Tom Wolfe, among others, were even more hysterically arguing that these writers were a threat to literature, morality, and western civilization.

To call something "avant garde" in the 21st century would be both silly and presumptuous. "Irreal" is, I think, too much of a shibboleth to be wholly adequate. Nonetheless, I'm really pleased to have the first excerpts of "Mr. Deadman" published on The Cafe Irreal.

Anyway, as I was thinking about terminology recently I came up with a term that works for me: "alternate mindset literature." It's writer-centered and it's open-ended, but it limns a territory apart from realistic literature without carrying a value judgement about that which it is not.

So, take a look at some of my recent alternate mindset literature,

Excerpts from "Mr. Deadman"


Blogger Richard said...

Nice work. Classic Cherches lives!

6:25 PM  

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