Brevity, Part 1: The Malady of Death

The Grove Press edition of Margeurite Duras’s The Malady of Death (1982, English trans. 1986) is 64 pages long, and roughly 5000 words. It says “A Novel” on the front. At most, there are one-hundred words on any given page.

I first read this while waiting for some Chinese take-out

At the time, Duras stood somewhat alone. But today it’s not uncommon to see novels that are 10,000 words or less, and that run under 100 pages (although typesetting usually keeps them over 50). Not to mention that many novels that are under 20,000 words long.

So: How long is a novel, in your opinion? How many pages, how many words?

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39 thoughts on “Brevity, Part 1: The Malady of Death

  1. I just saw the three Beckett stories The End, etc. (all about 7000 words each) labeled as novellas. I think this question might be like trying to define flash fiction.

    Addendum: I wish your Fellini post had gotten more comments.

    • I second that. I often read Adam’s posts and think, oh, this is good, I’ll get back to this when I have a little more time to formulate a response. And then it’s a week later and he’s written another post and I think, oh, this is good, I’ll get back to this when…

      • That’s sweet of you guys. I know I have a tendency to write long posts (and long comments on posts). I think I don’t really understand blogging; I understand better essay-writing, so I tend to post things that are more like short essays. (Not necessarily good short essays, mind you.)

        But I’ll be trying with this little series to post shorter, more blog-like things…

    • I agree that it’s a slippery fish, but I’m curious as to what people think.

      I always heard growing up (meaning, as an undergrad and since then) that short stories are under 10,000 words or so (maybe 15,000), and that novels are anything over 45,000 words.

      These days, though, I see most literary journals setting their upward limits at 3000–5000. With a handful of bigger (and older) print journals saying upwards of 8000. (Yeah, right!)

      Last year I wrote a short story that’s a bit over 12,000 words long; it’s the final story (of sixteen) in a collection that itself runs maybe 45,000 words total. And some friends looked at it and said, “Dude, this isn’t a story, it’s a novel. Or at least a novella.”

      I disagreed, not because I don’t think novels can be short, but because the piece read like a story to me—a 75-page-long story (due to formatting), but a story! It reads pretty quickly, I think. And it’s in two parts, so you can read it easily in two sittings. And it’s the last story in the collection, finishing some ideas started in the two or three stories right before it (which it even relates to, title-wise—it’s a kind of movement).

      (This story, btw, is actually forthcoming in a journal. Some or all of it. Although I imagine probably only some of it. It being a very long story!)

      Also in that collection is an 8000-word piece that I’m very proud of, and have sent out a few places, and they’ve all written back with words to the extent of, “Regardless of whether this is any good or not, you’re crazy trying to publish an 8000-word story.” They often reply immediately, indicating that they took one length at the size of it and didn’t even bother to read it after that (although I’m too cynical). One editor even told me, “It’s impossible to publish a piece that long these days.”

      I don’t agree, but I have noticed that stories (and novellas and novels) seem to be getting shorter.

      …OK, so this has been a more customary, longer comment from me. (And apologies for talking about my own work.)

      Addendum: I vow to keep posting about Fellini! His final film, La voce della luna, starring Riberto Benigni, still hasn’t received any distribution in the US. (That’s the one that was booed at Cannes, causing David Lynch to shake his head in sorrow.)

      http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0098606/

      • I’ve had trouble placing my longer stories, too. My theory is that people have gotten so used to reading flash fiction, anything over 1k words “feels long.” This theory of course satisfies my high opinion of the pieces, to be sure. But I still think there’s something to it. I think more and more editors feel like publishing a long story is somehow cumbersome or an imposition on their readers.

        • Does the medium have any influence, though? Or is it only personal preference?

          For ROTTEN LEAVES (the online magazine I edit for [for? with? I’ve never figured out which is right]) we don’t take anything over 5,000 unless is shatters us, based solely on having to read a long piece on a computer screen. But the print edition will be mostly longer stuff. Sort of like how HOBART is set up. JUKED, though, have no problems with reading 8,000+ on screen. And though I do most of my reading on the computer, I prefer to read long things on paper.

          Anyone notice these trends changing as more and more (quality) online sites are popping up?

          • See, I’m not sure I buy into that. I spend probably 6 hours a day looking at my computer screen, and I think a lot of other people do, too. A lot of this time is spent reading things here and there. The argument that people don’t want to read long things on line seems to assume that the time would be tacked on to the existing time they spend looking at their screen. I argue that it would simply be part of the same period of time, at the expense of other stuff. If the work is good, people will read it. And even if some people begin the story, really like it, but stop anyway “because it’s too long”, it’s still going to be available for more potential readers than a print run of 500.

            Putting me squarely in favor of running long work online.

  2. A related question (which I hope responds in some way to Adam’s original question): is it possible to conceive of genre (here, the novel) less as a measure of length than as a measure of intention? What I mean is – genre markers have implications that aren’t purely technical. When I prepare to read a novel (regardless of length), I prepare myself mentally, meaning that even though the novel might only be 10,000 words (or 10 words), I recall, instantaneously, though within my limited experience, all the structural and dramatic associations that I know the novel is heir to.

    • Edward’s point is crucial.

      It should be okay to talk about long short stories and short novels. The labels should mean something beyond approximations of word count.

      • I very much agree (with both of you). I like to argue that there are some works of long-form fiction, like Harry Mathews’s Cigarettes, or Jeremy M. Davies’s Rose Alley, that are long and that are fiction but that are not, in fact, novels. They’re anti-novels, perhaps, and they play with the structure of the novel, but they elide a lot of what the novel traditionally gives you (like a coherent centralized plot, and all the character relationships). Both books are very playful in this regard, teasing the reader. Cigarettes all but asks you to try to piece it together, and to make the big family tree that could be in the front of the book, but isn’t there. And Rose Alley has some character relationships that can only be puzzled out if you read through the index.

        So: being long doesn’t automatically make something a novel. Being a novel means something—it means engaging in the history of the novel, wherever that history has wandered. Conversely, one walks into Malady of Death differently (as Edward suggests above) because of the way it’s published, and because it has the words “A NOVEL” on the front cover. Those factors provide a conceptual frame for the text between the covers, which might otherwise read like a short story, were it published in a journal in more regularly-sized paragraphs.

        And I think that Duras’s Malady reads more like a novel than a short story, despite it’s length (although it reads mainly to me like a novella, I have to say). I don’t want to argue that novels/novellas are epic, and that short stories are scenes, or anything like that, but Malady of Death is pretty epic. It’s its own thing.

        That all said, I think that too many people are trying to play Duras’s conceptual trick these days: too many authors/publishers are putting out very short pieces of writing that are very scattered and fragmented and deliberately incomplete, and which don’t really engage much with the history and form of the novel, and then they use the conceptual power of the words “a novel” to try to bind the whole package together (and to price it at $14.95). But perhaps that’s one of the places that the novel has wandered to these days; I don’t know.

        When it comes to prose, I tend to be a narrative person, which is to say that I like narrative, and I like anti-narrative, but I’m not so keen on a-narrative, if you catch my meaning. (But that’s a different post.)

  3. I love the longer story and am proud to be publishing a bunch of them in our first issue of Sententia. It’s not that I have anything against flash- I don’t – but I just prefer 5000-10,000 word stories. In fact, the long story is my favorite form, period.
    Also, the Duras book? It’s a novella. But “novellas” don’t sell like novels. It’s a good book, too. I read everything she’s written. The Lover is the best in my mind. Also, she’s repetitive- not that that bothers me so much.
    Also, any thing over 5 pages online, I print out. I love the “print friendly” choices that Word Riot and other places do. I don’t like to read long things online even if I spend a lot of time online. Not sure why that is.

  4. Shya! We’re very excited about it- just a tremendous variety of great fiction and poetry.

    I like this part of ad’s comment:
    “That all said, I think that too many people are trying to play Duras’s conceptual trick these days: too many authors/publishers are putting out very short pieces of writing that are very scattered and fragmented and deliberately incomplete, and which don’t really engage much with the history and form of the novel, and then they use the conceptual power of the words “a novel” to try to bind the whole package together (and to price it at $14.95). But perhaps that’s one of the places that the novel has wandered to these days; I don’t know.”

    I made my husband read some trendy short book recently and when he was done he said, “I feel like I just read the back of a cereal box”. And that pretty much sums up my feelings about a lot of cool, apathetic, no structure, no “meaning” books that are being worshipped these days. After he said that, we both looked at each other and more or less simultaneously said – “try harder”.

    And I maintain that Duras wrote a novella, and that does indeed have to do with length. And also, in my opinion, no, a novel cannot be 10 words long and frankly, neither can a story- a sentence, well, yes (this in regard to Edward’s comment.) Yes there is the history of the novel and all that, but first and foremost, it is LENGTH that refers to stories, novellas and novels. Nothing too precious about that. That’s my two cents.

      • I know this question was addressed to Paula, but I wanted to jump in and say that I, personally, am not interested in slamming any particular books or authors. I’m not even necessarily trying to say anything bad about “short writing.” There’s plenty of bad long writing, too. And there’s a lot of good short writing.

        But I see a clear trend toward shorter and shorter, and I’m hoping that we can discuss that in these posts. I intend this to be an ongoing series. I want to talk about that trend, and its history or histories, and why it’s happening, and what its effects are, and so on.

        That said, I doubt I’ll be singling out particular writers as being merely trendy. Because it’s not nice, I think, to make things more difficult for young writers. If someone who’s established jumps on the bandwagon and writes a short trendy book, that’s different, but if someone puts out a book of extremely short stories and I don’t like them and it’s their first book, and I think it’s simply something trendy, then I’m not interested in making life more difficult for them. I’m interested in having a conversation about the trend, and maybe making my criticisms that way, but I’m not out to dump on anyone in particular.

        And lots of people like really short things, and trendy things.

        Including myself.

        Sometimes.

        • Hey Adam,

          I was interested in the title to gain clarity. I’m not interested in slamming writers in their embryonic stage either. I think it would useful though to hear more about the work(s) that Paula is talking about. What exactly are those “cool, apathetic, no structure, no ‘meaning’ books that are being worshipped these days”? And how is the experience of reading those books like reading the back of a cereal box?

          I also can see how this would shift the conversation away from what you want to talk about.

  5. Great post, great thread. I third Edward’s opinion, about intention, and want to hear more from AD about readerly expectations of the novel vis-a-vis history/form. Because part of the novel’s tradition *is* the bucking against tradition, right? The novel is like the tempest in a teapot, and the novella perhaps a smaller tempest in a smaller teapot, and the short story–well. Gathering clouds?

    I’m going to dig up some essays I wrote about these matters and maybe will post a few relevant excerpts.

    • Hi Kristen,

      I agree that the novel is something “new,” at least in its name, but that the novel also has a pretty long history at this point. So, like the Modern, it’s not really all that new. It’s old.

      And I think that novels tend to be narrative. And to tell stories with characters. And…that’s about it, really. Long works of fictional narrative involving characters.

      Although of course there are exceptions to that, and all sorts of interesting places that’s been taken to. I’m a tremendous fan of the French New Novel, for instance, which really pushed against traditional novel conventions.

      But those new novels existed squarely in a tradition. They responded to the tradition of the novel. Robbe-Grillet’s work is fascinating in part because of how interestingly his anti-novels respond to the traditional novel. Nathalie Saurraute’s work, too. Duras’s.

      Christine Brooke-Rose reinvents the novel every time she writes one. But she’s still writing what I would call novels. Or anti-novels, maybe–but writing in opposition to something means engaging its history. And she doesn’t reinvent every aspect of the novel. XORANDOR plays wild games with perspective and narration, but it has a rather conventional plot. And a setting. BETWEEN, meanwhile, experiments with the way a novel can be told, trying to exist between English and German. But otherwise it’s a novel.

      I personally object to anything long (or short) simply being called “a novel” as a marketing ploy. What makes novels so good, anyway? It’s just a form, and there are lots of other forms. People like sonnets, too. We don’t label poems sonnets so people will buy them. (Although I bet someone has tried this.)

      And I think there’s some conceptual room here as well. It’s interesting to write something really short and then call it a novel (like Duras did). Just like it’s really interesting to paint canvases all blue, like Yves Klein did. But how many times can that conceptual trick be played before it loses its power? I think Duras pulled it off quite skillfully. And Yves Klein was, in my opinion, a genius. (His blue canvases are better than anyone’s, especially since he invented the color blue he used—and it’s a beautiful, beautiful blue.) And of course Klein and Duras did far more than just these conceptual things. And there’s an amazing amount of thought behind what they did—it’s more than just a trick. It’s a real concept, in the broadest sense of that word (to conceive).

      To summarize, and to paraphrase something I wrote somewhere else: When it comes to the novel, I find myself interested in the novel, and in the anti-novel. But not so much in the a-novel that calls itself a novel. if that makes sense… (OK, I’m interested in one or two a-novels. But no more than that!)

      Maybe this makes me a fuddy-duddy.

      Cheers,
      Adam

      • Adam,

        Yes yes (not to the fuddy-duddy part!) I appreciate these finer points. Glad you mention Robbe-Grillet and Saurraute. I’m not too familiar with Brooke-Rose’s work beyond her translations but I’d like to be, now. More broadly it seems that what’s being discussed here is the possibility of a certain purity of form…in the case of the novel, an “essence” of novel (one that at least dallies with its tradition) that exists from the inside…and not one that feels in some way superficial, or market-driven, etc. (Those book covers that are redone when their Hollywood counterparts are released come to mind.) And so then more broadly we are discussing, through any number of examples (Klein’s blue, Duchamp’s Fountain), what art IS, etc., the perpetual question that we’ve all probably gone around the block with several dozen times, realizing at some point that it’s one of those questions that’s already an answer…

        But to stay on topic, I have no idea why novels are “marketable,” and short story collections, for example, are not. Book as commodity is puzzling. Is it because more novels are made into movies, and that’s where the real mother lode is? Almost like, if it’s a good story, tell it for 200 pages, or don’t tell it at all. I would think that more people “nowadays” especially, given how we rush around and sit on subways and take timed breaks, would want to read more palm-sized things. But it’s onerous, isn’t it, possibly dangerous (for writers I mean), to try to understand too well the whims of the market.

        I love the short story. The novel too. Different kinds of love, though.

        There’s more lurking in my brain but it’s late.

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  7. I’ve seen publishers slap “novel” onto anything, I mean linked poems, whatever. “They” seem to think all the public wants is to see the word novel.

    • Apparently no one can sell a short story collection.

      So take your collection and give your characters the same names.

      Add some lines to ensure continuity.

      You now have a novel. Congrats.

      • An acquaintance of mine recently wrote a short story collection, and it’s a good story collection, but one thought I had after reading it was that it would have been better had she done something like this. Or, rather: I think she should have made the characters in each story the same characters, or at least given them the same names, and made the collection more into a novel told in short stories. Or whatever that would be called.

        Donald Barthelme started something like that with his two Edward and Pia stories (which are such beautiful stories). I imagine they were pieces of a longer project that didn’t work? Or two starts at a longer thing that never worked? I wish he’d written a few more of them. I like very much the space between them.

        Yuriy Tarnawsky has been writing some wonderful “mini-novels” recently, where he essentially writes a novel, but then cuts out a great deal of the material between the various episodes, leaving only like thirty pages. The effect is quite powerful—you can really feel the negative space between the different sections. “What happened to the character such that this part led to this part?” LIKE BLOOD IN WATER (FC2, 2007) collects some of them—a great collection. And he read another one at the &Now conference that blew my doors off.

        http://fc2.org/tarnawsky/bloodwater/bloodwater.htm

        It’s too bad if people can’t sell story collections, though. I thought the story was popular again? Didn’t Barthelme and Beattie and Carver and Paley revive them? or has that worn off? (And if so, why is everyone always buying those “Best American” collections?)

        One problem with calling everything “a novel” is that is diminishes so many other great forms. Like stories. And novellas. And things that aren’t any of those things. Like I said above, what’s so great about novels? Most of them are bad.

        • It seems fiction in general doesn’t sell like it used to, Oprah notwithstanding (btw, maybe the Chicago chapter of Big Other can stomp onto her set and demand equal rights for flash and short story collection) I see more people reading non-fiction. And that’s great too – that’s where the trends are with reality this, reality that.

  8. i don’t know what a “short story” is anymore. Or a “novel”. Or a “novella” (besides, obviously I guess, length concerns, which I think are really about the dictates of the market, and economic restraints). Or what “fiction” is versus “nonfiction”. I think these descriptors are kind of empty now when we get into experimental writing, when we’re not talking about realism, and I think we need to find new ways to talk about prose. (Poetry seems to have so many more signifers.) I don’t think a Christine Brooke-Rose “anti-novel” like Agammenon or Next or a Sarraute novel is in fact not a novel, but was taking the novel in a new direction, or engaging with the history and form of the novel, as you write Adam. I don’t think when we talk about experimental novels post the New Novel or post the modernist novel we are talking about traditional characters, or setting, or “plot,” whatever that is, anymore. I am interested in writing that questions what a novel should be, what a book should be, that is hybrid in nature. Is it interesting as a piece of writing? I don’t think it matters whether it categorizes as “poetry” or “short story” or “novel” etc.

    • Hi Kate,

      I agree that novels and novellas and short stories are (and should be) pretty broad categories, but I like to think that they are still definable categories (definable to some extent, and probably still kinda fuzzy). And I hope that none of them are or become empty descriptors, because I don’t know what anyone would gain from that. Can a novel can be a Ziploc bag filled with metal shavings? Or a tree growing outside my apartment? I can see some conceptual interest in claiming such a thing (I once did claim that I’d written the tree outside my apartment, and that it was my new novel—no one believed me—I even tried to submit it to a journal and they just laughed—actually they didn’t even really notice—and I could say it’s self-published but then I’d be somewhat timid to put it on my C.V.), but I don’t think it would be to anyone’s benefit—especially writers—if everyone started doing this, and the word “novel” lost all meaning. Or if it started meaning something entirely different than what it used to mean. All of a sudden.

      Along the same lines, I’m suspicious of 8000 words of semi-random text with no narrative, no characters, and no setting being printed on 84 pages and being called a novel. Maybe if one person did it, I’d be able to go along with it. But I see this kind of thing happening a lot these days. (“Well who are they, Mr Jameson?” “Oh, c’mon, don’t make me name names, that’s too painful, and not really my goal. Besides, we all know that the small press scene is a circular firing squad these days. I’m not here to put anyone in particular down!”)

      My question is—one of my questions is—Why a novel? Why does God need a starship? And why do people want so very much to be novelists? Why do people want such writing novels? Why not be OK with the things we write not being novels? Because I don’t think that a lot of the 8000 word thingies I see that claim to be novels are in fact novel. (I’m speaking abstractly and generally. I’m not saying that, blanket-wide, none of these things are novels. MALADY OF DEATH, for instance, is a novel in my book. It passes the “test.”) (Also, I don’t think that anyone should care all that much as to whether I think something is a novel. I’m not trying to become an arbiter of something—The Approver of Novels. Rather, I’m more interested in the question: What is motivating this? And what are its effects?)

      (“Motivating this what, Adam?” “Oh, well, you know, this short-short not-really-a-novel-but-I’ll-call-it-a-novel craze! As well as the super-short story craze. The super short everything craze! But we’ll get to that.”)

      I’m very much all-in for people exploring what a novel is, and what fiction is, etc.. I like to think that’s what I myself do. I’m not trying to write RABBIT, RUN. (Although I have a great idea for a fifth Rabbit novel: RABBIT REGURGITATED) But I don’t really see how one can do that—how most people can explore the novel, and innovate new types of novels—without at least one eye on the history of the form, and without responding to that history, and to historical forms. If one doesn’t like the history or the form—awesome!—then engage with said history and form and change it. (That’s what I would call an anti-novel, probably.)

      I rather like authors like Brooke-Rose and Sarraute who do exactly that kind of work. CAN YOU HEAR THEM? is a fantastic novel that is not a traditional novel, but that broadens what the word novel means. And it does so my engaging with other novels. It doesn’t try to reinvent every aspect of the novel simultaneously. Or pretend that it isn’t, in some ways, a conventional novel.

      Frank Kermode said something about this in SENSE OF AN ENDING: that you can’t innovate on every level simultaneously and have anyone understand you. There has to be some amount of convention, some amount of innovation. I doubt one can abandon all convention, anyway (and it’s usually the ones who claim to have done so who are the most conventional). But people can do mind-blowing things if they keep some tradition, then change other things. Barbara Loden’s WANDA gains in power from the ways in which it engages with—and then differs from—BONNIE AND CLYDE.

      Otherwise, if people aren’t interested in novels, not really interested in them, and in engaging with them and in innovating them, then my attitude is: write something else! And be proud of having written something else. Who needs novels? What I mostly object to is when someone writes something that isn’t a novel, like 5000 random snippets that are more poetry than anything else (and I love poetry, and I write poetry), but then calls it “a novel” for…well, why they do that is between them and their god. Commercial reasons? Or because novels have a certain cachet? (Why do they have such a thing?) Or because the writer wants to use that term—and that established tradition of the novel and its form—to pull the text together in a way they, the author, couldn’t. (Well, that would be simply lazy! And not a critique of anything, but an appeal to the supposedly-critiqued authority!) …Anyway, those are the kinds of things that I would call a-novels: “novels” pretending to be novels, but that really have no interest in novels. Apathetic novels.

      Of course, beyond all of this, whether or not something is a novel probably has very little to do with how “good” the writing actually is. My point is more that non-novel writing might actually be better if everyone stopped pretending that they’re novels. Their authors can go first.

      Why do people want to write novels, anyway? What’s so great about novels? I like them, but they’re also kinda dumb, kinda old-fashioned, kinda dead. Tom Clancy writes them, and who wants to do anything that he does? I swear, that guy makes me want to not be anything that he is. Thank god my name isn’t Tom. And that I don’t like riding in submarines.

      But why are novels valued over every other form of fiction writing? THAT seems like that’s a good place to attack dominant ideology! And reader assumptions! Why appeal to it by pretending to be writing that very thing? That seems ~C~R~A~Z~Y~ to me.

      Stop writing novels, everybody! Except those of you who are actually writing novels!

      …And despite having written all of this, I’m really not all that interested in whether or not anything in particular gets called a novel. I don’t want there to be some kind of stamp of approval. That’s not interesting. That would be a waste of time and effort. But I am very interested in
      . Why so much contemporary writing is getting shorter;
      . Why so much contemporary fiction writing is not employing much narrative;
      . Why so many people still want to call so much of that brief, a-narrative fiction writing novels;
      . What the effects of that are (assuming there are any);
      . …and other related things that I’m too lazy to articulate now, but will try to articulate in the future.

      I should add (and I will say more about this later) that I’m suspicious of the current trend toward brevity. (I reveal my hand!) Inasmuch as there is a current trend toward brevity. But I think I see such a trend. Perhaps I am wrong. But I think I have seen it, and its tracks. And its droppings.

      And no doubt this trend includes many things I like. But I wonder why brevity is so hip these days. And to what extent brevity should be resisted. At least by me. If not by you (the general you). Although maybe by at least one other person. Although I’m ready to go it alone, if I have to.

      This is related to a Suspicion I have that our culture (inasmuch as “we” have “a common culture”) has swung too far in the direction of fragmentation, brevity, irony, cleverness, slickness, preciousness, cleanliness, and so on. I’ve for a long time (like five years!) felt that many of the once-useful postmodernist strategies have been surrendered to the Culture Industry, or co-opted by the Culture Industry, and have gotten used up and are no longer all that Revolutionary; in fact, they’re Reactionary. I look around me and all the mainstream work I see, and all the advertising I see (same difference) is ironic, surface-level, fragmented, clean, slick, brief, impersonal. Hell, I went and saw that WILD THINGS movie that I was told was heart-felt and emotional and sincere etc. and it was surface-level, fragmented, clean, slick, brief (although not brief enough), impersonal. Gag. Made me want to run out and see an HBO First Look or whatever on HOW THE HELL THEY MADE THOSE FRIGGIN AWESOME WILD THING SPECIAL EFFECTS SFX ARE SO COOL.

      Well, the fort they lived in was kinda neat. Fort Goldsworthy.

      …So when I see art like that, movies like that, or writing like that (“like what, Adam?” “oh, you know…”), which then claims a kind of revolutionary power against the mainstream culture, I’m…Suspicious. My eyes narrow and I experience an impulse to run. (“When I hear the word brevity, I reach for my running shoes.”)

      This is all very vague of course. I apologize for that. I at least tried to make it moderately funny. (“That’s supposed to be funny?”*) And maybe it sounds too hateful toward the Brevity Folk. Hey, Brevity Folk! I don’t hate you! I like you, in fact. And I myself have written some pretty brief things. So I’m a Brevity Folk myself. So even if I run away, or seem cranky and dour, I really just want to talk about these things.

      AND THEN TEAR ALL OF YOUR BOOKS TO SHREDS!!!!!!! …Oh, no, no, no, not really.

      I promise (oh God) to keep posting about it until I can articulate it better. I will make a sustained attempt! That will consist of many thousands of words! Perhaps I will be able to accomplish something by the very form itself, if not the actual content. Perhaps. I’m squinting suspiciously. (But is that only because my culture has told me that people will like me more if I’m self-deprecating? Oh god.)

      Hopefully this provides more of an idea where I’m going, what I’m trying to articulate.

      Cheers—
      A

      *That (“That’s supposed to be funny?”) is a direct reference to PERFECT LIVES by Robert Ashley et al, which is a postmodernist opera for television from the early 1980s that I really love. So, see, I’m not like hating on postmodernism or anything:

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