Jen Currin / Experiments in Narrative #1

Jen Currin

Experiments in Narrative #1

For my first TCR blog post, I thought I’d try to turn my story “Before Midnight” (titled waaaay before the movie) into a lyric poem. The idea of this distillation came when I was thinking about a story I heard about Yasunari Kawabata’s novel Snow Country. Years ago, someone told me that Kawabata had written the novel and then later condensed it into a work of short fiction. In fact, as I later found out, the reverse is true: Kawabata originally wrote Snow Country as short story, then serialized it as an ongoing narrative, and finally published it as a novel. Yet the idea of “shrinking” a longer narrative to reveal its core—to get down to the bare bones of the story—remained in my mind. As I started to type this up, I realized that I must also have been subconsciously influenced by a former student, Yaana Dancer, who once turned a short story into a lyric poem for a reading because she only had five minutes to read and she wanted to read a specific piece. In conducting this experiment, I wondered what sort of narrative would remain when I stripped out important elements like the protagonist and many of the actions. While Joanna has all but disappeared (is she the “she” in the final line?), the angels have become more prominent characters. In writing, I wondered how I could use poetic devices like repetition and fragmentation to both undermine and heighten certain aspects of the original narrative. And I now wonder: what sort of “story” exists in this translation?

Here’s the experiment:


Some weird angels. Weird angels.
Didn’t look like angels. Like devils.

One with blonde hair and pink eyes.

Two angels dance.

Favorite yellow blanket. Nightmares.

So sick of all these.

Vitamins. Night. Holy books. Burning.

Explain vaguely:

The angel had a mother. Call your mother.

Hear the hiss—an angel on coffee.

The dancing kitchen. Horns.

Like hell. Knew heaven. She started.

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