Excellent disjointed writing
September 27, 2006 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Can you think of any examples of "disjointed" writing -- writing with abrupt transitions -- that works? Faulkners Sound and Fury is a good example but shorter pieces are better for my purposes. Can be fiction or non-fiction.

For those who want some context, I am leading an exercise with some writers and it goes something like this:

First, you take the reader on a tour of a place that you know very well.
Then, mix ("splice') into your own writing passages from Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place where she is taking the reader on a tour of Antigua.
Then, mix into that passages from Mike Davis' "Sinister Paradise" where he is taking the reader on tour of Dubai in 2010.

Confused? So were they but I eventually got the idea across ("It's as much about the selection and arrangement of other people's writing as it is of creating your own text.") and the exercise is going swimmingly. The transitions between passages are abrupt in a good way and I would like to show them some other examples of this.
posted by Aghast. to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Most anything by Carole Maso, particularly Ava.
posted by vers at 10:06 AM on September 27, 2006

Catch 22.
posted by Riemann at 10:17 AM on September 27, 2006

The stories that comprise David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas do just this: they end abruptly, mid-sentence even, and fold in and out of one another. And, also, they are brilliant.
posted by xmutex at 10:38 AM on September 27, 2006

Michael Moorcock's The Brothel in Rosenstrasse.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:38 AM on September 27, 2006

I second Joseph Heller's Catch 22.
It was so difficult to read.
posted by ernestworthing at 10:39 AM on September 27, 2006

It seems like you might want to avoid prose fiction and look at modernist and postmodernist poetry, particularly Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams of SPRING AND ALL, Ted Berrigan's Sonnets, Lyn Hejinian's My Life, Charles Bernstein, Paul Celan, etc.
posted by johnasdf at 10:53 AM on September 27, 2006

William S. Burroughs' cut-ups are more hand-crafted than he would have had folks think. Naked Lunch the most famous of these novels, Nova Express, I think, the most beautiful.
posted by Scram at 11:52 AM on September 27, 2006

You need a copy of Campbell McGrath's "The Bob Hope Poem." It includes spliced-in bits from People magazine, National Geographic and numerous other sources. Also, it's completely brilliant.
posted by junkbox at 11:52 AM on September 27, 2006

Illuminatus Trilogy and If On A Winter's Night A Traveler both come to mind.
posted by J-Garr at 1:01 PM on September 27, 2006

Faulkner's short story, "A Rose for Miss Emily," might be a good one. The story is told with the order of events completely jumbled.
posted by wryly at 1:41 PM on September 27, 2006

So sorry... it's "A Rose for Emily."
posted by wryly at 1:44 PM on September 27, 2006

Response by poster: Great suggestions.

I just ordered me some Cambpell McGrath for a dollar on amazon based on junkbox' suggestion.

If on a Winter's Night... fits too. I'll recommend it to them and tell them the concept so they can see it themselves if they want.

Cloud Atlas sounds exciting with the folding in on itself. I want us to consider attempting that in our writing as well.

The personal essay seems like a genre where this would happen. Anyone know any personal essays that I can use?
posted by Aghast. at 1:54 PM on September 27, 2006

The Life and Times of Kater Murr by E.T.A. Hoffmann. It's written by a cat.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 4:49 PM on September 27, 2006

A very early example of modern (or even postmodern) theater is Woyzeck* by Georg B├╝chner, who left several drafts at his death in 1837. It was based on a well-known actual event, and has been completed by a number of authors. Perhaps because of its fragmentary nature, it is sometimes considered the first piece of Expressionist theater. It has also been adapted into other media, the most famous of which is Alban Berg's opera "Wozzeck." Both the play and the opera are considered masterpieces.
*I'm certain "Woyzeck" is in the public domain, but the only online version I could find is Project Gutenberg's German-language one.
posted by rob511 at 5:59 PM on September 27, 2006

William Gibson has remarked that his writing style in his early novels, which are regarded as disjointed and filmic, "cutting" between scenes abruptly, was caused by the fact that he didn't know how to write transitions.

His hero would check in to the hotel, but Gibson didn't know how to write him finding the lift, going to his floor, finding his room and putting down his bags, so he'd just cut to something else.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:50 PM on September 27, 2006

posted by johnasdf at 9:32 AM on September 28, 2006

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