SirTheory’s Treatise on Life

(opinions on just about anything)

Anti-Story: An Anthology of Experimental Fiction

Experimental fiction can be really hit-or-miss. However, the short story is the perfect way to showcase such a thing. If you succeed it is short yet sweet without overstaying its welcome. If it is really terrible it won’t last too long. It is inevitable that in a collection like this there will be some really terrible stuff.

Anti-Story, which was edited by Philip Stevick, is split into eight section: Fiction About Fiction, The Uses of Fantasy, The Primacy of Voice, Fiction In Search of Something to Be About, New Forms of Extremity, The Phenomenal World, Forms of the Absurd, and The Minimal Story. If you could feel your pulse quicken when reading those section headings, go and pick this collection up immediately.

There are quite a few really good stories, insane though they may seem to the logical mind, in this anthology. From “Life-Story” by John Barth, a story about writing a story which switches point of view, to “Rhinoceros”  by Eugene Ionesco, which is about people turning into rhinos. Perhaps the best of the lot is Tommaso Landolfi’s story, “Gogol’s Wife.” It is a tale of a man who loved a blow-up sex doll. It is imaginative, crazy, and has a warm heart that really brings the story alive.

Some of the stories are completely incomprehensible due to being so experimental that they’ve lost all meaning, becoming just words on a page that don’t connect to each other. The worst in the anthology can be followed, however, is excruciatingly long and lacks any plot or characters. It is called “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country” by William Gass. At 28 pages long it is no simple walk in the park. Gass splits the writing into multiple sections with a header to describe what that section is talking about. It all centers on a specific yet nameless town. But rather than telling a linear story (or any story) it just gives details about the area. Without any plot to keep track of it is hard to keep turning the pages. Yet you have to turn through 28 of them.

Thankfully, even with the worst of the worst, the nature of this anthology means that every story expands your idea of what fiction can be. Which is nothing but a plus, especially if you are writer. If you are just a reader, looking for an easy time, then this anthology is probably something to skip. You’d be better off getting a John Grisham trade paperback.

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September 10, 2007 Posted by | Literature | Leave a comment