Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Don't get any big ideas; they're not gonna happen.

A few different tie-ups here. Welcome to "design and style," where we discuss everything about books but their plots. Haha. But seriously...that's a pretty good description. The title of this post is the main line from Radiohead's "Nude." It relates. You'll see for yourself if you're willing to make the jump...

I don't get so much cocky as hopeful. Writing is an odd thing because, well just look at the word, it's writing. I guess you can "sketch" before you actually draw something, but you don't really have the sort of purely mental activity that I associate with us language workers. There's a lot of idea gathering, a lot of stop and go, it's like the interstate on rush hour. So you can talk about "what you're working on" when you physically haven't put any work in. Or maybe that's just me. You get all these crazy ideas and well you don't pick and choose. Eventually you either write stuff down or memory picks and chooses what it wants to remember, but you still end up with this huge list of stuff you've never even really started, although it's been there in your head for years. The bigger the idea the less chance you ever are going to dig into it. Or rather I'm going to dig into it. I'd like to imagine a point in my life where this weren't true. Or rather I like imagining a point in my life where this isn't true, because nothing stops me or makes it difficult for me to actually imagine. It's my chosen profession, after all.

What I've really been digging into lately, what I've really been stealing from, is the spine, if you will, of a work.  I read Pale Fire not always understanding what it was about--as I've stated before, the book was mostly over my head--but very interested in the way it was written, an idea I wanted to copy or steal if you will. There's not copyright on what you call a novel. So writing a poem and then annotating it in a bad way, well it'd be obviously influenced in form, but I feel like the work would be original. Who am I kidding? What with it being Nabokov who wrote the book, some'd say the greatest writer of English in the twentieth century, why do I even think I can create anything worth even...writing or reading or what... This is also what happens when you "get big ideas." They sound stupid as hell. Anyways... I had thought that I really considered the style of Pale Fire novel and very fitting to a specific story I had wanted to write and could not really find the best method of presentation. I had hoped that, well, that perhaps I would be coming up with my own spines for the books I wanted to write, erm, I mean my own styles or designs or ...

That paragraph just needed to end. So of course I didn't really think about it while reading comic books, but I started coming up with ideas for my own comic series if I could, you know, either draw or have a whole bunch of artists at my beck and call. I thought this was just an immersion in the medium and perhaps it was. But I had not considered how immersion in reading fiction didn't naturally have this result in me, except in recent memory of Pale Fire. Of course, you get ideas from what you read, you steal from here and you steal from there, I'm not saying that I've ever or will ever create anything original, but I am saying that there seems to have been a shift as of late in what I think about while reading. At least, at least every once in a while. This entire post is a big idea I've got that isn't going to happen.

The revelation came while reading Douglas Coupland's The Gum Thief. Coupland's book also has its own odd structure, being almost the actual journal of Roger, one of the main characters, which is a recycled idea of Coupland's, except that in this case he has modified it, by having other characters find it and write their own little bits in. This is perhaps the first multiple perspective book that I've read that actually explains the many narrators away as a plot device. It's very neat. And in reading the first seventy or so pages of it and following my thought process while reading it...something clicked.

This was not the mindset that I remembered in reading Freedom back a few months ago. Perhaps this is simply a mind game I've begun to play as of late and it's always been this way, but I'm considering the possibility that the ideas are getting to be critical mass. I've grown to search for the packaging for them because I can't just keep coming up with them and letting them rot. This connects with my plans for my idea of the four writers who each have at least a story to their own, only two of them are written and now my mind's looking for the clothes of the last two. Of course these would be more physical wrappings, hence clothes and not spine (I'm not making any sense am I), but I'm not so sure it's not something I should be keeping an eye on.

Now here's a big idea that I'd love to see happen: In October I want to begin writing a poem that will make up the first part of a style steal of Pale Fire, following this up with another attempt at a NaNoWriMo to provide the other side of the book. The plots of the books will not be at all similar and the styles won't be exactly the same, but am I wrong to think that the idea, the style, the way of presenting the story, that that is mine for the taking? I guess that's what this post was about. Of course when I foresee comic books to be written, I'm considering an entire medium, not the intellectual property of one man. And while I did in fact think about what it would be like to write a book in a similar style to The Gum Thief, this was a vague thought that I haven't let bloom, nor do I particularly plan to. In retrospect, however, I must concede that my first novel, my first NaNoWriMo was basically styled after Bret Easton Ellis's The Rules of Attraction.

One wonders if I might be able to come up with my own structures and spines, clothes and fashions. It's especially important when it comes to considering poetry, where these very ideas are, so to speak, intellectual property that were we to steal we might find ourselves ripping off whole poems, ashamed upon the realization. This is just the sort of rumination and thought that "design and style" was and is supposed to put me, though I hope it has been mildly enjoyable to you, I'm sorry for boring you, and I'm happy to say we're done with that.

Here's a quote from this article on Nicholson Baker:
In "The Anthologist," he created a post-modern novel that, with typical extemism and belligerence, defends not only poetry but rhyme in poetry. At the same time, the book, from a purely literary point of view, is one of the precious few to be an almost direct outgrowth of the novel that may be the greatest post-modern masterwork, Nabokov's "Pale Fire."
I'm sure there are lots of books that are linked to Pale Fire but I'm not enough in the literary scene to know about it. The connection of The Anthologist which I definitely plan on reading in the future makes good sense. Maybe I'm in good company to be interested in creating my own sort of Pale Fire.

I originally referred to Coupland's book as Glove Pond, a novel being written in the book, which is actally titled The Gum Thief. I think it is very much in the logic of the novel that you would forget the title.

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