I’ve heard the term “Experimental Fiction“ bandied around of late, and I realized that I didn’t know what it meant. So, I did some looking, and one way of defining Experimental Fiction is by contrasting it to mainline, or literary fiction. In Literary fiction the reader expects characters that are believable, characters who act in a natural way, with attitudes and needs that the reader can relate to. Literary Fiction features plots that can be resolved in a decisive manner, even if the resolution is somewhat predictable. Literary fiction typically has a linear storyline, and is narrated in traditional ways.
Experimental Fiction, on the other hand, breaks some or all the rules of Literary Fiction. The problem with Experimental Fiction, as I see it, is the difficulty the reader has wading through the pages. Rambling, unstructured un-stories peopled with characters with unpronounceable names, and unfathomable drives, are hard to identify with.
In many cases Experimental Fiction is totally without plot, without a coherent story.
While I have found some books of this sort titillating at first, my inability to follow often moves me to put the book down.
Perhaps the trick to Experimental Fiction is to write short bits of it. Short stories, dialogues, “out-there” essays. Maybe the trick to understand it, and to make it work, is to do it in small bites.
Interested? Take a look at some recognized works of Experimental Fiction:
Ishmael Reed – Mumbo Jumbo
William S. Burroughs – The Soft Machine
Kathy Acker – Blood and Guts in High School
Carole Maso – Aureole
Jean Toomer – Cane
David Markson – This Is Not A Novel
Gertrude Stein – Tender Buttons
Ben Marcus – The Age of Wire and String
To be fair, I’ve only heard of two of these, and have finished neither of them, but I’m interested. I’m intrigued.
What do you think?