Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nightmare Literature

    A few days ago I started Darby Larson's Irritant. It's a major beast and I've dedicated myself to reading 50 pages a day every day until i finish all 600+ pages. The book moves quickly but this is still A LOT of Irritant. The same day I read an old issue of Cake Train and a bunch of Blake Butler's old blog posts. That night I had stress dreams and woke multiple times in a cold sweat. This is not something that happens to me very often nor is it exaggeration or hyperbole nor was it due to some other factor. These works sort of fought their way into my mind and fucked with my dreams. I've read fucked up stuff before, Hubert Selby Jr., Robbe-Grillet, Matthew Stokoe, Kafka, House of Leaves, whatever. None of these books have done this to me.
    This crowd has this broad aesthetic which is so easy to recognize but incredibly difficult to describe, which seems easy to emulate but is in reality so opposite to what one's mind generally produces that it's very very difficult to write like this. I guess if you haven't read it my description would be that they take words and destroy any meaning that is commonly associated with them then recombine the words with a total disdain, like a gripping hatred, of consensus connotation. Also birds seem to pop up frequently. The first time I really came across this style was i think with Blake Butler's Nothing. Reading that book was a nightmare for me, I wanted to get through it so bad and see what the deal was about but I found it so revolting to everything I knew about literature that I felt sort of trapped. This experience with Cake Train, the first half of the issue, was that I found every story was so repelling and confusing and pointless. But I found myself pulled in and now I can't wait to read more. It's like how you hear about people that take too much PCP and have an awful time and are really freaked out and uncomfortable for hours and hours yet have this deep urge to go back and try more.
    I can't think of any better description of this style (maybe 'group of styles' is more appropriate) than a nightmare. As an adult I've found very few nightmares have monsters chasing you or whatever. So often the dreams are terrifying because of a lack of logic, the flashing images, unusual relationships between objects or new ways through which space works. I want to say something hopeful about this style something about figuring out how we or the brain works by watching it malfunction, by figuring out where the logic lays by finding the illogical and excluding it. But realistically there is nothing very hopeful about these writer's works.
    While I appreciate what these writers are doing (at this point appreciating form a distance anyways) I feel that a lot of times they could go further. That there is too often a disconnect between language and plot, or experimentation and literary pragmatism. While a lot of these stories and poems absolutely stand on their own I can't help but wonder at the potential of their power when used within a more logical framework or story line namely to illustrate certain experiences. Madness, sickness, drug use immediately come to mind but the possibilities are enormous. Many of these writers seem, to me at least, uninterested in aesthetic satisfaction and prefer to rely on experimenting or revolting for its own sake which is totally acceptable as far as I'm concerned. I just can't help but wonder how useful this style could be when applied to more maybe not strictly pleasing but holistic ends.
    If anyone is aware of writers like this I'd be interested in knowing about them.

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