Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Structures

I have been re-reading Ernest Buckler’s Ox Bells and Fireflies. I have compared the book I am reviewing, When I Was Young & In My Prime, to Buckler’s book. Both books are structured in small chunks, bits and pieces, unified by running themes, with little narrative thrust or plot. Buckler says straight out that his is a memoir, but he also suggests that it is fictionalized. Munce’s book, although a novel, strongly suggests that a lot of it is memoir, that the details are remembered, not invented. Both use the anecdote, rather than the scene, as building blocks. Munce uses many forms, much like Viktor Shlovsky and Guy Davenport do: prose-poems, a government pamphlet, an auctioneer’s patter at a farm sale. Both are interested in memory. A unifying theme of both is birds.

Many blogs do proceed by anecdote and by their very nature are structured in bits and pieces. Litlove, over at Tales From the Reading Room, is ruminating about the form of the blog, the blog as genre. A blog’s inherent structural difficulty is that it is read backwards. The writer begins at the beginning, with his first post, but the reader is reading only the latest installment. Of course a reader could go back to the beginning and read straight through to the present, but probably not many do. As a blogger, how do you use this backward quality? If a blog was made into a book, would it start at the beginning, at the blogger’s first post, and continue to the last one? This would destroy the intention, wouldn’t it? In a journal made into a book, the reader reads from the starting point to the end. There is usually a structure – a year in the life of, the constructing of a home, a journey.

The writer of the blog isn’t going to conform to an overall structure and probably isn’t going to envision an end. Some blogs do have a unifying theme – cooking, or making dresses, or homeschooling for example, but most have various concerns and passions.

2 comments:

zhoen said...

I would love someone to read my posts from earliest to last. When I did nanowrimo last year, the only structure I knew was a series of loosly connected essays, so that is how I wrote it. Not knowing how to plot, I learned something of novel writing by just writing a lot in the way I knew. Maybe the next try will be more plotted.

Some rather successful novel writers seem unable to end their books. I.e. C.J.Cherryh and Frank Herbert, Samuel Donelson (sic throughout). So I am in company, if not good company.

litlove said...

It's interesting, isn't it? When I was an undergraduate we used to talk a lot about 'ecriture feminine' which was a kind of writing practice that arose in France from the feminist movement there. It was completely against the linear development of what it considered to be 'partriarchal' fiction and sought instead to create more circular, repetitive patterns in its stories. That went hand in hand with lyricism, a refusal of authority, and perpetual linguistic play. Hard to read, but intriguing. I sometimes wonder if blogging is a user-friendly version of this, whereby stories come in fragments, without overarching organisation. You have to agree to dispense with plot, but instead you get lots of playfulness and engagement with the moment. Well, it's a fanciful thought but one that pleases me!