In my first post on experimental fiction, I mentioned the Library of Congress and its creation of the term, but I didn’t communicate how idiosyncratically the term is used. The good people at the Library of Congress created the term, but applied it in ways that might puzzle the attentive reader. Why, for instance, does Gertrude Stein never have the term applied to her strangely repetitive works? Why do two of Thomas Pynchon’s novels have it, but the rest, which are surely more qualified, do not? And what on earth is Garth Stein doing in here?
This time through, we look at some of the newer titles and younger (living, even!) authors who have written experimental fiction.
Invisible Monsters, by Chuck Palahniuk
Shannon, a former fashion model, recovers after having her lower jaw shot off, and meets Brandy, whose transformation from man to woman is told through memories, false identities, and nonlinear narrative.
Blood and Guts in High School, by Kathy Acker
Composed as a postmodern collage, pastiche, and parody, and containing plagiarized bits of other works, this novel follows a girl who leaves an incestuous relationship with her father to develop her own identity, even as that quest leads her to the poet Jean Genet and a Persian slave trader. If you liked this one, nearly everything by Acker is considered experimental fiction.
Antwerp, by Roberto Bolano
Bolano’s narrator, named Bolano, says at one point “rules about plot only apply to novels that are copies of other novels,” and then goes on to relate random snippets of everything he encounters. There might be a mystery and a detective to investigate it, but maybe not in this collection of 56 scenes in 1980s Barcelona.
Against the Day, by Thomas Pynchon
I’m not sure why this recent title by Pynchon is classified as experimental, especially considering how his early works, like V. or Gravity’s Rainbow really pushed some narrative boundaries. However, if you’re looking for a big thick, yet readable, book, this is a good one, with anarchists, the Chicago’s World Fair, unscrupulous villains and a young heroine who falls for the absolutely wrong man.