Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
RE: Last week’s post about a possible new literary journal called The Disappointed Housewife, I’ve been doing some early foundational work on it to see if it might be able to fly. Thanks to WordPress, it’s easy enough to put together a free site that looks reasonably good and offers enough features to make it easy for readers to find what they’re looking for: poetry, fiction, essays. A search box for particular names and subjects, plus a monthly archive list. It would be nice and clean.
If I have one big concern it’s that my preference for the kind of stuff I’d like to publish in TDH might not come in at a pace that would sustain the thing. I’m thinking of new paradigms. A different slant on what stories, poems, and essays could be.
After last week’s post, I started thinking about the kinds of material I’d like to see, but I have to wonder if anyone is really producing it. For instance, poems that are submitted as photographs of handwritten text, maybe on index cards, or, even better, on some kind of medium you wouldn’t think of writing on. I can imagine a tale, of sorts, being told via a series of links that readers would click on to assemble the story. Or a slide show of images with captions that suggest new kind of narrative. Implied. Beneath the surface.
If you read my essay, “Gatecrash: liberating creativity in the age of boilerplate fiction,” you’ll remember that I’m hoping for our writing to take a hard left turn one of these days, to find new ways to tell stories so that we don’t have to keep repeating ourselves. Mash-ups of genres, text blended with other media like images and sound, text collage, experiments in chronology – we can try all kinds of different things to see what might work.
That’s what I’d like to see in The Disappointed Housewife.
So I guess my main question is, are you working on anything that’s utterly different? Do you know anyone who is? Are you willing to try something new, out of your comfort zone? Would you be willing to ask around in your online (or even actual) world to help find writers and other artists who might be sitting on innovative work they’re not sure what to do with?
Because the real problem is that there’s no market for stuff that’s perceived by publishers as “unsalable.” The truth is, they don’t know what’s unsalable – an ugly word that I can’t abide! – until they try to sell it, but they’re far too cautious for that. Experimental work, if it appears at all, shows up only in the most obscure outlets, as if it’s too off-putting for general readers.
And maybe it is. But maybe there are enough of us who’d still like to partake. And make.
Of course there’s a place in The Disappointed Housewife for more traditional forms and approaches. But my editorial eye would be interested in seeing offbeat surprises, twists, and manipulations of these forms, so that readers will begin to see that somebody’s doing fresh things with the familiar. You could write a typical short story but scramble the chronology somehow, reverse gender roles, have all the characters be hamsters – I don’t know. You could retell myths in a modern context, or have some intruding voice pester your characters with footnotes. There are a million ways to play with traditional material to make it feel revived.
Another kind of submission I’d hope for if this thing were to become a reality is in a category I’d call “Faux Forms & Genres,” where writers would parody cultural elements. Fake job applications, local news scripts, book reviews (like the one I did recently), crazy GPS directions, contracts, absurd recipes – just about anything that would be fun and interesting to mimic. And if you’re good at computer graphics, you’d be welcome to make facsimiles of the genuine articles with phony logos and letterheads, whatever would make it hit home.
So this is where my head is right now where The Disappointed Housewife is concerned. Anybody willing to go down this road with me?