Experimental Fictions

Monday, May 4, 2009

For those of you who have never gone to a Rahna Reiko Rizzuto reading or enrolled in one of her classes, she's a knock-out green-eyed Italian/Irish-Japanese astrophysics-trained novelist/memoirist who was born in Honolulu and has made the world her home (and left the world with, among other things, Why She Left Us, the novel that won an American Book Award). She's also one of my dearest friends, and every now and then a package will arrive with Reiko's writing scrawled across the front. Saturday that happened. Inside was a book by Christian Peet, a story told through postcards titled Big American Trip. Yes. A story told through postcards. Angry, odd, fantastic comminiques that all add up to a singular voice that may be male, may be female, may be fiction, may be not.

Addressed to the Sweet Grass County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center in Big Timber, MT, for example, these words: "I do not wish that the world would go by. I do not wish to watch the world leave."

Reading through Trip yesterday afternoon, I thought of all the other deliberately odd books that have won my heart—the out-of-the-boxers that made me want to write a book like Flow, a river's autobiography, and that inspire the work I'm doing now. Carole Maso's Ava, for example—the final words of a dying woman, the unpieced fragments of a life. Michael Ondaatje's pseudo-biography of Buddy Bolden, Coming through Slaughter. John Berger's novel in unchronological letters, From A to X. Markus Zusak's Death-narrated The Book Thief. Richard Flanagan's Death of a River Guide. Chloe Aridjis's Book of Clouds. Alexansdar Hemon's The Lazarus Project. Forest Gander's As a Friend.

These books don't hew to the sound bite. These books dare. I've got an entire shelf of them here. I like sitting among them, breaking rules.


Alea said...

That book sounds interesting, I'll have to look into it!

Tessa said...

I, too, love breaking rules! I've only read two from that fascinating list of rule-breakers you mention, so I will add the others to my 'wish list'. I wonder if you've also read Twelve Bar Blues by Patrick Neate and Robert Sapolsky's A Primate's Memoir? Worthy rule-breakers, I think.

Anonymous said...

Very cool!

Monster of Books said...

The author and the book sound very interesting XD I just figured out that your a author and your book: "Nothing But Ghost" sounds interesting I'm most definitely looking forward to reading it when it comes out in June =D

Does your friend speak any Japanese? I've been learning Japanese for the last two years and will be going to Yokohama, Japan in July, 2009.

Sherry said...

Can't wait to hear more about your rule breaker.

Woman in a Window said...

I'm thinking I don't read nearly enough. These books sound wonderful and inviting and mind niggling.

admin said...

I'm so glad that Big American Trip speaks to you. Most days I feel not terribly unlike the writer of those postcards (go figure), who clearly doesn't believe that anyone is listening. Thank you, Beth.

Thanks, too, for the list of "related" approaches--some are faves, and some are now on my "to-read" list. Here's another one for you: Selah Saterstrom. In terms of form, her first book (The Pink Institution) is the most experimental, but her second (The Meat & Spirit Plan) is no tired narrative either--and both rip out my heart. I also happen to publish experimental fictions as a rule (again, go figure) through Tarpaulin Sky Press and would be delighted to float some other nifty books your way. I'm hesitant to post emails online, so maybe through Reiko we can exchange addies?

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