Sunday, May 27, 2012

Experimental Pop

Academy-trained MFA writers have preconceived notions of what “experimental” writing looks like. If you know what it looks like—what it’s supposed to look like—then it isn’t very experimental, is it?

Meanwhile, their box-barrier indoctrination keeps them from noticing the real experiments in pop taking place on the margins of the lit world. An example of this is the fiction of Wred Fright. (See Fright doesn’t present the kind of generic literary stories you’ll find from prestigious writing workshops, that’s for certain. There’s nothing pretentious about Wred’s stories.. Instead, a comic, comic book style to them. What makes them different from “experimental” stories of the past is that instead of being deliberately offputting, they’re deliberately inviting. The tales say, “Here we are.” Their accidental simplicity and intentional fun puts the characters in front of you, so that the effect conveyed is like a pop painting or a comic strip. In literary writing all emphasis is on the words. With what I call “pop,” the words are paint strokes or pontillist dots. You don’t read to notice the words, but instead, to experience with one impression the story, and the image in your head created by the words and the story.

I’ve tried to create a similar effect with my own experiments in pop. For instance, “The Strange Case of Mr. Box,” one of the tales in my ebook Ten Pop Stories. People have told me, “The characters have no depth.” Duh! In this case I wanted flatness: a sense of There-ness, so that the art is right in front of you. I modeled the story after the great Dick Tracy movies from the 1940’s shown on Turner Broadcasting, or a Dick Tracy comic strip. My real goal was to create something akin to a Roy Lichtenstein painting. Using and reinventing narrative cliches. Pop Art done with words instead of paint dots.

I think I achieved that simple effect with “Box.” From there I’ve sought to keep that effect, but see if I can play with the model, and so expand depth and emotion while keeping the fun or colorful there-ness. I realize that any art’s first objective has to be to attract an audience.

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