The literary experience

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  1. #1

    The literary experience

    I was watchinga youtube video by Criswell called "Stanley Kubrick - The Cinematic Experience", in which he argues that Kubrick's films often feel very distant, as if there's a barrier between the viewer and the film, and where cinematic techniques are used to purposefully disengage the viewer from identifying with the world. In other words, it should feel like it's not our world, but a world exclusive to the film. To quote the above mentioned video: "in movies, you don't try to photograph the reality. You try and photograph the photograph of the reality."

    In a way, he wanted to highlight the symbolic nature of his films.

    Examples of techniques he used to disengage the audience, were zooms. It's a technique rarely used by other directors, because it can be distracting. Same thing with his use of very extreme camera angles.

    Is there utility to using this tool? If so, how can we as novelists use them to our advantage? What would the equivalent be for a novelist? Also, are there any novelists you can think of who do purposefully try to present a "metaohoric" reality, rather than a world for us to immerse ourselves into? I do sometimes get this feeling when reading Kafka. Does anyone agree?

    Finally, one thing Kubrick did often, was to let shots ride out to a climax, with very little editing to focus on an actor's performance. Obviously, we don't have actors in novels, but could this method be helpful to us in some way? I'm thinking that maybe one could write and re-write an entire chapter multiple times with virtually zero self-criticism, to get the most material to play with, only to pick the best parts? I recall seeing an interview with Clive Barker, where he claimed most of his several hundred words first draft, never made it into his final book.

    Thoughts? What is a true "literary" experience according to you, that makes it different from the purely cinematic?
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  2. #2
    The book I was just reading was not typical. It starts as a story about Erich and Maurice, from Erich's perception. Then we move a few years ahead and it's a story of Gore Vidal and Maurice told by Gore. The next section is more years ahead and about Edith and Maurice, told from Edith's perspective.

    I was struck by how much this wasn't a typical book. (In several ways.) But also I ended up thinking there are good reasons for how we normally write books.

    Is this what you mean? I was left with thinking about the reasons for how we normally structure a book, and how this was different, and whether or not it worked, and why it might have been useful for this story.

    That takes me out of the story, though not in an annoying way. I wonder how many readers appreciate the book in that way. (A look at Goodreads has a lot of positive reviews written by people who sound like authors.)

    I could say the same thing about Faulkner's unpunctuated 250-word paragraph in The Sound and the Fury. By violating conventions, it helps us look at the conventions.
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  3. #3
    I have heard of this type of thing. . .I think it's commonly called metafiction. The intention is pull the reader out of the story (without it being annoying, like Emma said), to make them notice the way that it is written. Sometimes it is done for satirical purposes, like making fun of a particular genre or style. Other times it's done simply to get the reader to examine things like style and technique. I don't have the skill to write this type of thing, nor the patience to read it, but it can be interesting.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdrianBraysy View Post
    Thoughts? What is a true "literary" experience according to you, that makes it different from the purely cinematic?
    Really interesting question. First, the description of Kubrick's films as "wanting to highlight the symbolic nature of his films" is very postmodern. Here, things become highly derivative and increasingly abstract as one symbol points to another, points to another...

    Of course this happens in fiction, too. How many times have we read something and thought, 'that sounds like what so-and-so wrote'? So we can have derivative works in fiction.

    Yet, I wonder if the degree to which a work of fiction can be derivative is minimized by the more limited print medium? What we write becomes, in many ways, rather like a personal conversation with the reader. We have nothing exterior to our written words on which to rely when the reader takes them to decode. How the reader does that is mitigated in part by their worldview: do they decode based on the grammar of what's written? Or, do they read into the story the one they wish to read? What value do they place on historical or cultural context for interpreting the text? So on and so forth.

    While our only input in fiction remains the text, cinema goes well beyond what we are able to suggest with words alone. However, I wonder if fiction is really the more engaging of the two? Whereas with cinema, the audience passively sits there and experiences, in fiction I like to think the reader actively enters our world on a more intimate level than is possible with film.
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