Tag Archives: Lance Olsen

New Fiction Published!

conj68a.jpgHappy to share that “The House That Jack Built,” a new fiction of mine, appears in Conjunctions:68, Inside Out: Architectures of Experience, alongside work by Robert Coover, Joyce Carol Oates, Lance Olsen, Nathaniel Mackey, Susan Daitch, Frederic Tuten, Joanna Scott, Andrew Mossin, Claude Simon, Louis Cancelmi, Cole Swensen, Robert Clark, Kathryn Davis, Elizabeth Robinson, Gabriel Blackwell, Monica Datta, Robert Kelly, Mary South, Brandon Hobson, Ryan Call, Ann Lauterbach, Can Xue, Karen Gernant, Chen Zeping, Matt Reeck, Lisa Horiuchi, Elaine Equi, G. C. Waldrep, Lawrence Lenhart, Mark Irwin, Justin Noga, Karen Hays, and Karen Heuler.


New Interview with Lance Olsen

An excerpt from the interview:

John Madera: Would you talk more about this “webbing” that connects everything with everything, about reality as a text?

Lance Olsen: Maybe our real job as writers, I sometimes want to say, perhaps even as human beings (with the accent on the plural noun), is to continuously learn to pay attention to the world we move through. Yet the world—which is to say how we’re wired—plots against us. Our default mode of being often wants to be the habitual, which is to say the unexamined, which is to say our default mode of being-there wants to be not-being-there.

What’s astonishing and invigorating for me about what I consider difficult art—a sentence, say, in Ben Marcus’s Age of Wire and String or Gary Lutz’s Stories in the Worst Way; the architectonics of David Lynch’s Lost Highway; the complexity of any two seconds of a text-film by Young-Hai Chang or corner of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights—is that it seeks to return us through challenge to attention, which is to say contemplation.

Another way of putting this is to move from the aesthetic to the existential and think about what your answer might be to Annie Dillard’s rattling riddle: “Assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?”

In other words—and this eases us toward a tentative answer to your second question about reality’s textuality—paying attention is a continuous condition of learning (and unlearning) how to read. The world is nothing if not a text composed of a multitude of texts (just as each of us is nothing if not a text composed of a multitude of texts) we try to make sense of, narrate, and, as Derrida reminds us, there is nothing outside the text.

But here’s the deep-structure dilemma: humans are by nature story generators, pattern recognition machines, designed to tell what the world has done to them. Give us an incident, no matter how enigmatic, indeterminate, or tenuous its causes, and we will narrate in order to generate the hopeful, desperate impression of coherence. We are built to strong-arm links, invent causal chains that don’t exist. Give us a bedlam of stars and we’ll birth Sagittarius. This instinct is what Nassim Nicholas Taleb refers to as the narrative fallacy—that common intellectual blunder of forcing chaos into cosmos in an attempt to account for what eventuates around us and to us and through us.

Find the rest HERE.

A Talk in Which “My” Words Are Used to Help Form a Cloud

A few weeks back, Lance Olsen invited me to contribute some words to “a collage of the words and insights of others” about Ben Marcus, which he would then present at the 2012 &Now Festival held at the Université de la Sorbonne in Paris June 6-10, 2012. Check out the fine results, HERE. An excerpt:

It’s all about vision. The Marcus vision is dark. It is clear and shot through with its special Marcus pessimistic energy, but, as we all know, pessimism is secret code for wild hope and idealism.1 I’ve learned how acutely meaning depends on syntax, and how nimble and able the mind of a reader is when diction has made a rash departure.2 Once, in workshop, Ben instructed us all to bury our food in the backyard for safekeeping.3 If humans are in reality hosts for the virus that is language, Ben, then are you as a writer enslaved? Language made me ask this.4 Paragraphs that surprise you like nests mice make near a warm engine.5 If Marcus is conducting experiments, he’s conducting them out of view, and then unveiling the results as a fait accompli, like an Edison or Tesla or some other secular magician emerging from a laboratory. Marcus’s work, with its powerful kinship to the visual arts and music and perhaps even pharmacology, should less be copyrighted than patented.6

My Interview with Lance Olsen Is Live!

Check out my interview with the incredible Lance Olsen at Rain Taxi: Review of Books. Here’s an excerpt:

JM: When I think of collage in the visual arts or in music, I think more of overlap and mixture, where the edges of the disparate elements are blurred. In Head in Flames, as well as in some of the print novels you mention above, the disparate elements are usually placed, as you’ve described, in juxtaposition, rather than overlap and mixture. In other words, unless the typography itself is dealt with visually—that is, overlapped, inserted, interwoven—then the collage element isn’t necessarily experienced in a visual way. So then, what are the “different strata” you see of literary collage? What are the particular ways that Head in Flames uses collage? And how does the reader of your novel (and works like it) put it all together?

LO: My sense is the notion of collage can be used literally or it can be used metaphorically in fiction composition. That is, collage fiction can be deeply, actively appropriative in nature, cutting up previous texts to create new ones at the level of phrase, or even word, as in, say, the work of Eliot (think of The Waste Land) and William Burroughs (think of his cut-up technique). This impulse stays very close to the original French root of the word: coller, i.e., to paste, to glue. But it can also be used simply as a structuring principle—not only as a juxtapositional combination of ready-mades, then, but of just-mades, as in, say, the work of Milorad Pavic or Julio Cortázar.