A Case for the Experimental

In a Harper’s Magazine article, author Ben Marcus rages against the judges of the National Book Award in fiction, saying their quick dismissal of low-selling works is “a clear announcement that the value system for literature [is] tweaked to favor not people who actually read a lot of books but a borderline reader…who might read only one or two books in a year.”[1]  Marcus’ argument is based on a premise that contemporary readers are not interested in being mentally challenged, and that the publishing elite cater to this by marginalizing economically any writer “interested in the possibilities of language…[who] appreciate artistic achievements of others but still dream for [them]selves …[and believe] that new arrangements are possible…new connections of language that might set off a series of delicious mental explosions.”[2] From his article, the reader can obtain three certain “Marcus Truths:” language that challenges the brain is not only fun, but healthy; artists who experiment with language and form push literature forward; and this progression is a good thing.[3]  I’ll add to those truths that experimental writing also fills a niche that other forms do not. It provides inspiration to authors and readers alike, enriches the database of forms and gives new life to the literary world. Continue reading