Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On Gimmick

[As a preface: Translator of Kill is a story I've been working on. Its title is a pun on detective novels like, "Interpreter of Murder," a book I swear I saw someone reading in the subway, but after much googling, results were not "yielded." What follows is part of an email to a friend and former student of mine, Eli Halpern. I've done some minor editing to rephrase the email as more of a general question posed to whomever reads GIVER.
The email was written to clarify my feelings on narrative statements behind dialog, e.g., "This is a small place," he huffed., that seem to betray a character within the narration itself.]

Initially, I was going to make Translator of Kill into a larger piece, book. I still might. Hopefully. Not sure when/if. As far as the "he huffed" or "he flashed," I'm particularly interested in narration as character, as if there were an unannounced or unwritten protagonist (for lack of a better term) commenting on the manner in which the other characters are speaking and reacting to the story. In the manner of the Greek chorus, I suppose. An almost opining. I was experimenting with that in Translator of Kill, but perhaps it's not something too obvious since it seems to only happen twice.

Is conceptual resolution needed within a work...i.e., once we start something in a work, must we *really* bring it to conceptual completion?

In academic settings we are almost always given the same advice: If you do something you have to carry it throughout the text, "none of this 'half-assing' it," or "you need to either do more of this or get rid of it," or similar phrasing, más o menos...But I'm just not so sure I agree with this. Ever. I don't know why a writer/artist can't pick up gimmicks and toy with them, only to drop them *before* they actually become gimmicky (a la "An Entire Book About______/Using ______ as Conceptual Engine"). This tone of academic rigor, that urges artists to do many or much of one thing (repetitive "tricks" become more obvious to the viewer/reader/recipient), makes so much of that rigor predictable and unremarkable.

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