One of my favorite writers in the world is new British author, Marc Nash. An experimental writer from the get-go, Marc can dazzle the eye and the mind with images and ideas that make a reader think and smile and even shudder at times. He excavates the language landscape to unearth ways of communication that dazzle and astound. I’m thrilled to have Marc as my first guest blogger. My prediction is that Marc Nash is and always will be … an admired ‘word master’!
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore”
I believe this is what it says on the Statue of Liberty. I’m going to be really provocative and say contemporary literature needs to heed these words. I’m not talking about genre works, for they have to work largely within well-established tramlines. I’m talking about those books either deemed ‘Literary Fiction’, or are just filed in ‘Fiction, A-Z by author’ in the bookstores.
1) ‘Your tired, your poor’ … Every workaday metaphor has probably already been written and published in a book somewhere. Have a look at any new work of fiction and see just how tired and lackluster its metaphorical language is. I bet you’ve heard it all before, or at least imagine that you have. Literary deja-vu. And yet our world is changing so rapidly, technological and scientific breakthroughs happening everyday, surely we should be expanding our creative palettes? Yet science is leading the way, because science has to think beyond the human scale; be it cosmological and planetary and infinite; or sub-atomic and quantum. Science has to invent metaphors to explain behaviors or origins of matter, because it can no longer prove the existence of these things, too great or too tiny for the naked/lensed eye.
Stephen Hawking’s books are literary masterpieces, look at his metaphors to explain abstruse things. String theory? C’mon, how rich is it to explain the dimensions of existence like a child playing cats’ cradle with her mother’s balls of darning wool? The Higgs Boson particle accelerator is like a giant pinball machine which we hope and pray doesn’t register ‘Tilt’ and suck us all into a game ending black hole. Now I don’t say we all have to start reading “Scientific American” or “Nature”, but ask yourselves why have the scientists suddenly taken over the role of coming up with new metaphors to help us humans understand the world around us? That’s our job as writers! Call our Union, Feckless Local 911. (Another event deemed too large scale for our tiny imaginations to cope with).
2) ‘Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’. I believe an unfortunate and unintended alliance of publishers and writers has left a section of the reading public starved for literature they yearn for to feed their mind. How many contemporary books (and would-be books in online writing groups), have you come across and said, yes competent, stylish even, but I’ve read better versions of the same. I read a book that was basically an updated version of Hubert Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn. Beautifully executed, updated to a 1980’s NY community, but basically, DONE BEFORE. I was not transported to anywhere I hadn’t already been and bought the T-shirt (or the dust jacket at least). This tendency is composed of a self-reinforcing cycle of books that prove their marketability, leading publishers to play it safe with commissioning more of the same, and authors seeing what gets published, also playing it safe and sticking to these formulas and subjects. Stop it, cease and desist right now! Give the readers something new to challenge them. Why did experiments with form and language seemingly expire in the 1960’s? That’s 40 years ago, the world has moved on, and makes even less sense to us morally and socially adrift. Maybe radical new insights through fiction might meet that raging hunger out there in the market. We won’t ever know if none of it ever gets published. Writers have to make the first move by writing this stuff. Then try and impress on the publishers that it will sell. Or publish it themselves and prove it sells …
3) ‘The wretched refuse of your teeming shore’. I’ve been at this writing lark for 25 years now. Pretty much with the same centrality of vision as I started out with. I have stepped over the husks of many of my peers, far more creative than I, but ultimately worn down and vitiated by years of rejection and neglect for their work. Maybe I’m just thicker-skinned or more cussed. I have decorated the walls of my study with rejection letters. It drives me on. I receive heaps of criticism within online writing communities, because my work is ‘difficult’ or ‘demanding’. While I am happy to allow that reading a book and needing a dictionary or book of Classical Greek Myth to hand, may not be your chosen way of reading, when it is a peer writer who complains that “I don’t wish to have to keep referencing a dictionary when I read”, I ask myself why would any writer admit to this, that they have no interest in words? In expanding the palette of hues with which they can daub on their own canvas. So no, I refuse to compromise. I paint with words. My metaphors are impressionistic. My POV cubist. My references abstract, in that I am not tackling material reality head on. In short, I sculpt with words. I may riff off just one word and fill up a whole page with ambages brought about by that one word. I am convinced I have a constituency out there. It may not be sizeable. It may not be particularly profitable. But it is interested in literary form. In language. In ideas. In metaphor. In contemporaneity. In politics (not party politics, but politics behind the everyday). In being mentally stretched. In short, writing that makes them work a bit, but hopefully rewards them for their investment. A book life-changing, not in the way of a self-help book, but one that may leave them never viewing the world in quite the same way again.
What say you my fellow scribes? You up for signing on for a literary Green Card? Come get with the program. Or at least help me establish such a program.
Marc Nash’s novel “AB&E” is coming out before Christmas and will be available on Amazon. Visit him at http://sulcicollective.blogspot.com/ and be sure to take a look at the Video Bar and his amazing Guerilla Videos!