November 24, 2014

The novelist is so special.

"For all of November, Gabriela Denise Frank is writing a novel while sitting on a couch in a living room carved out of the third floor of the Central Library downtown in an installation titled 'A Novel Performance.'"
Boxed in by a set of stanchions, Frank sits on a couch, typing on a laptop and occasionally referring to the sheaf of papers spread all around her. Above her head is a large screen displaying everything she types into her document. Aside from that one outward-facing element, it’s a homey setup with a lamp, an ottoman, a tasteful rug, and an end table decorated with a pot of bright orange flowers. Despite the large white headphones she’s wearing—parts of the novel have been written to Yo Yo Ma tracks—library patrons want to intrude, to ask her what the hell she’s doing there. One woman looked at the setup and asked Frank, outright, "why are you so special?"....

Frank says the [National Novel Writing Month] process “feels very brutalist to me.” She describes the experience in a monotone, “Sentence. Sentence. Sentence. You write for three hours. You go to bed. You get up. You go to work. You come here and write for three hours. You can’t stop.”...

Writing in public is making her a different writer, too. Frank was writing “a romantic scene,” as people were standing at the stanchions, reading the draft as it appeared right over her head. She says “if I was at home, I’d be writing all kinds of stuff, but I had to edit.” At home, she went back into the draft and added sexier language, but as she was writing it under observation, “I couldn’t use that language in front of strange people.”
Strange people... and special people... What would you write if strangers were looking over your shoulder continually? I'd be tempted to start saying things about them, describing them, attributing rude thoughts to them, seeing how long it took them to notice, writing about how long it's taking them to notice, purporting to know their thoughts at the point when they notice, getting them to laugh. The people "want to intrude," we are told. Don't resist! Make it a 2-way process.

19 comments:

pst314 said...

Somebody once wrote a short story while sitting in the window of a bookstore. But that was done as a stunt, at least partly on behalf of the bookstore, not as "performance art".

David said...

"What would you write if strangers were looking over your shoulder continually?"

Lies and more lies. Interspersed with truthiness.

("Truthiness" is no longer challenged by spell check."

David said...

And I would close my parenthesis.)

LordSomber said...

All the cliches are there. The twee narcissism, the de rigueur mention of "social justice," the First World white girl problems, etc. Plus, isn't she a little young to be writing a "memoir"?

Edward Willett said...

It was Harlan Ellison who wrote the story while sitting in a bookstore, from an opening provided by Tom Brokaw. There's a transcript of a Today show segment about it online at NBC Learn.

Ann Althouse said...

" the de rigueur mention of "social justice,""

I know! That comes straight out of nowhere.

campy said...

'But that was done as a stunt, [...] not as "performance art".'

There's a difference?

sojerofgod said...

Self absorbed narcissism is the order of the day in the current celebrity obsessed culture.
This person is out prospecting for that '15 minutes of fame' that has been kicked around since it was spouted by Andy Warhol in the '60's.
Kind of sad in a way, not that I have any sympathy really.
People who seek celebrity get what they deserve; not that most of them end up liking it.

Laslo Spatula said...

" I'd be tempted to start saying things about them, describing them, attributing rude thoughts to them, seeing how long it took them to notice, writing about how long it's taking them to notice, purporting to know their thoughts at the point when they notice, getting them to laugh."

I'd enjoy David Mamet doing this.

Laslo Spatula said...

I would do this if i could be guaranteed that High-School Cheerleaders would walk by. Oh yes.

I am Laslo.

m stone said...

I can't take any writer seriously who has a "Gaia" character in a self-published memoir.

Special? Sorry.

Scott M said...

NaNoWriMo is a self-imposed deadline. As with most things writerly, those that participate run the gamut from frustrated never-again'ers to that-was-the-best-thing-evah'rs. Personally, I find it enjoyable to throw caution to the wind, take something out of the future project folder and just vomit a draft onto the "page", no matter how ridiculous or implausible.

Unknown said...

I watched a Richard Pryor special on PBS last night, and have a new perspective about mixing up your life and your art.

richard mcenroe said...

When Harlan Ellison used to type short stories in bookstore windows, at least he had the self-awareness to know it was a promotional gimmick...

richard mcenroe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
richard mcenroe said...

Deleted due to damn statute of limitations...

Sigivald said...

Has any performance art ever not been pointless pretentious bullshit?

Not seeing it so far.

(This one is, in fairness, at least not offensively smug or preachy or the like, just pointless to any audience.)

EMD said...

When Harlan Ellison used to type short stories in bookstore windows, at least he had the self-awareness to know it was a promotional gimmick...

I went to one in Sherman Oaks! Chris Carter (X-Files guy) was the one to give him the premise of the story.

And yes, Harlan insulted almost everyone in typical fashion.

EMD said...

As far as pretentious bullshit-as-art goes, this is pretty low on the outrage meter.