Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rearranged Narrative

I am intrigued by William Burroughs's "fold-in method" of writing, in which (if I understand Burroughs correctly), two texts are made into a composite text by placing half a page of one atop another. While the physical method strikes me as a bit impractical in terms of readability, I do think there may be value in exploring narrative that is arranged in non-linear form.

I laughed a little at Burroughs's specific mention of "flashback used in film," as these days the flashback is just as common in written works. Contemporary novels make use of non-linear extensively, if in creative little ways - the magical "pensieve" used in the Harry Potter series comes to mind. In a way it seems Burroughs did predict the future of the novel.

I wonder if stepping outside the linear tradition might be successful in other forms too. The theatre set is always looking for new ways to produce Shakespeare; why not shuffle the scenes a bit? While reading "The Future of the Novel," I was reminded of the first time I watched "Amadeus." It was on one of those double-sided DVDs you have to turn over halfway through the film, and I began it with Side B. It wasn't until the credits began rolling that I realized my mistake, and so I simply flipped the disc and watched Side A. Memorably, the film made just as much sense as if I had watched it in order and, perhaps, held even more meaning for me because I knew what the ending would be.

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