Experiments in Narrative #2

Jen Currin

Experiments in Narrative #2

For my second TCR blog post, I decided to try another narrative experiment. In this one, I do a “mash-up,” or collage, of my story “Before Midnight” and Reg Johanson’s piece, Mortify (which is an excerpt from a longer work and appears next to mine in CPR’s narrative issue). I have been lucky enough to hear Reg read from Mortify several times, and have always been intrigued by the voice the poem uses. When introducing the piece, Reg has said that it uses a voice of “over-identification” (in this context, from Zizek—overidentification as a tactic to discredit something). I am interested in the speaker who simultaneously questions and does not question his social roles. In attempting this experiment, I wanted not only to cut up the actions of the story, but to mix the voices of the two very different narrators to see if I could create a third narrator. Who would this narrator be? And what sort of narrative would they tell? “Before Midnight” uses the third person omniscient voice, conventional story structure, and conventional punctuation. In contrast, Mortify uses the first person, a circling narrative, and poetic lines which are run-on sentences. One point-of-view is very intimate, very close; the other is at an amused distance.

In the first collage, I used sentences from my story in the order they appear, but let my eyes skip down the text of Mortify to choose sentences/phrases that spoke to me in that moment. For the second collage, I used lines/sentences in the order they appear in both texts. In the third collage, I fragmented the texts even further, using very short sentences. For each collage, I followed this order: one passage from Reg’s piece, one from mine, one from Reg’s, etc. Interestingly, the most engaging narrative (in my reading, at least) is the most fragmented one: the third. Here are the experiments:

First collage:

Dad said I had to go with the men. Some weird angels showed up. I was hiding behind my mom’s skirts. They were weird angels because they didn’t look like angels. I don’t know what the men said. They looked like devils. Why did I want to stay with the women? But Johanna knew they were angels.

Second collage:

Dad said I had to go with the men. Some weird angels showed up. But I wanted to stay with the women. They were weird angels. Mom said I could. Because they didn’t look like angels. The women said I was hiding. They looked like devils. Behind my mom’s skirts. But Johanna knew they were angels. I don’t know what the men said.

Third collage:

Dad said. Some weird angels. I had to go with the men. Showed up. But I wanted to stay. They were weird. With the women. Angels because they didn’t. Mom said. Look like angels. I could the women said. They looked. I was hiding. Like devils. Behind my mom’s skirts. But Johanna knew. I don’t know. They were angels. What the men said.

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