Sunday, July 12, 2009
I think I don't believe in INNOVATION.
The most negative review my book has received was written by Brian Allen Carr in the March/April 2009 issue of American Book Review online.[By the way, the first long passage that is quoted in the review has a typo in it. The word "site" should be "since."] For Carr, my book's biggest offense besides being "boring" and containing "student-grade prose," was the fact that although The Bruise received the "Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize," the book was not "innovative." I can't really defend myself against this charge of non-innovation. That's a question for the judges at FC2. I simply put my manuscript in the mail.
What I mean is that Carr is right when he says that "Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Franz Kafka are all liberally borrowed from here." And that "this is a lesbian pseudo-romance, but that's nothing new." He does forget to mention Thomas Bernhard. I stole like mad from Thomas Bernhard. What I am trying to get to is this: I had no intention of making anything NEW when I was writing this book. In fact, what would or could be new? I am not really interested in that question. It seems like something for boys who like Pynchon and HTML to work on. I was just trying to write a book that I would want to read. My guess is that Carr and I like to read different things. What I find offensive in this review, though, is the implication that I was trying to pull one over on the reader, as if I thought the reader wouldn't hear the imitation, the sampling of my favorites. And this I don't think is Carr's fault. For some reason the literary world is haunted by this idea of novelty. The "Dude, I've heard that before..." syndrome. For all its post-modern claims, it holds tight to the most MODERNIST idea of all: that of making it NEW. But trust me, I was well aware of my book not being new. Charging that my influences are too obvious, both as favorites [as in not obscure enough] and as sounds in the prose, seems like something that would only happen to a writer. I mean, when we hear a Rickenbacker plugged into a Vox on some new indie album, we don't turn it off because it sounds too much like the Beatles. I at least keep listening to see what happens to that Beatles sound. Maybe I am boring, but I don't mind if new music sounds a little like old music. And I like new books that sound a lot like old books that I like. But even if I had lived up to Carr's ideas of the Sukenick award, even if I had completely adopted Sukenick's theories and deviated from linear form by "experimenting" with sequencing, I imagine that I still would have only been as innovative as Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. I would rather be like Bernhard or Proust or Stein, in any case.