I have been blogging about plot a lot lately. And while I haven’t been tossing around terms like legibility, accessibility, enjoyability in my posts about pop-television and James Patterson’s and Shonda Rhimes’s MasterClass lectures and even, gosh, going all the way back to last summer, craft essays by Ben Percy and Leslie Jamison on urgency and commonness, and more recently my defense of Jane Smiley’s defense of inclusive writing that does not exclude folks who just want a good story, basically these are the -ilities occupying a good portion of my public written craft concerns of late — whether experiencing myself the effects of their effects in dominant mainstream entertainment narratives or self-consciously performing blogging by “confessing” here my concerns about the extent to which the study of plot is an unacceptable pursuit. I hope, though, that my extended engagement with the straightforward has not implied disengagement from the rest, or some of the rest at least.
Today, over coffee with Jason I kept resisting all the ways he was reading me and my work. He’d say, “You’re undermining” or “disrupting” or “troubling” or “exploding” or “destroying” notions of genre or stability or forms or methods or whatever and I’d just keep shaking my head, “No no no no no.” So WTF am I doing then? Finally I said things along the lines of: I care about existing and established genres or forms that may or may not have been experiments in their day; I write to celebrate, to honor, to pay homage to, and to remind; I remix, I join, I bring together into conversation things thought to be disparate; I’m not by nature (nurture?) confrontational (I guess except for when I’m shaking my head and repeating, “no”) and so while I’m fine if someone else wants to say they read aggression or acts of violence in my formal decisions (disruptions, explosions, etc.), my chosen verbs all start with “re-”: revisit, recall, remind, rethink, reconnect, reimagine, reincorporate, reattach, reply, renew, revitalize, retell, rewrite, reiterate, rewind, revise, rephrase, redo, respond, report, reanimate, reform, redress, reconsider reconsider reconsider — which begins always with consideration. Kindness. Generosity. Belief. And disbelief (but not disregard). Surprise, I hope. And mindful hesitation. Awareness, always, of how much I don’t know but want to.
I threw a chair once, when I was a kid. It was my computer chair, and it had wheels. I was lucky enough to have a computer, first of all, and I’m pretty sure all I ever did on it was race my Mavis Beacon car and try to keep my windshield clear of bugsplat. Anyway, I got mad and threw this chair and one of the wheels broke off leaving ragged plastic behind. My parents made me sit in this chair — uneven, slanting sideways, gouging a disastrous hole in their hardwood floor — for as long as I lived in their house. Let me tell you, I have no idea what made me so mad that day but I never threw another chair again. Maybe in part this is why I resist the terms disrupt, explode, interrogate, obliterate, destroy, and prefer instead to investigate, to wonder, to wander, to be open to. Maybe this post is about the rhetoric of violence in experimental fiction writers’ day-to-day discourse about what experimental fiction does. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe call me Mollyanna, despite the fact that it’s always “a damp, drizzly November in my soul” and leave me to this “problem of the universe revolving in me.”