Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Interjection: The Death of Robbe-Grillet

There are a handful of writers who changed my thinking and thus my writing and thus my life. Alain Robbe-Grillet was one of them. I first read Jealousy in 1980. A thin, powerful book so much like squeezing through a crack in a stone wall after which, on the other side, lay magnificent possibilities. Robbe-Grillet's intersection between the language of film and the language literature allowed a conversation between the two that subsequently allowed other forms of narrative to occur and marry. (See the French New Wave film, Last Year at Marienbad, for which Robbe-Grillet is likely better known, because readin B hard, sez U shits)  

(NOTE to the similar shit to whom I foolishly loaned my only copy of Jealousy: May your life be plagued with dangling participles!)

14 years later I read The Voyeur, a novel that is not, as some too-simply synopsize, just a serial killer story. There are amazing shifts of point of view in the book which asks the reader to question the veracity of the narrator, the narrator's identity, and time itself. Thus, the reader is forced to question her own identity as reader and/or participant in envisioning killing, and the moment in which a novel occurs, beginning to end. A pack of cigarettes floating on water grows monumental inside this questioning.

When I began teaching avant-garde writing, I used Robbe-Grillet's Toward a New Novel as my lifeline into the fissure that would eventually open up into a vast cave yet unexplored. This nonfiction book is invaluable, and still immensely relevant. If you have not read it, then you are not a serious writer or writing teacher.

The French produced frittes and Robbe-Grillet. They are still delicious.

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