New Narrative is a movement started in San Francisco in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The writers focus on experimenting with the narrative using fragmented stories, meta-text, and other techniques that are traditionally considered more “poetic.” Writing in the New Narrative movement is known for explicit descriptions of sex and identification with the physicality of the author. The New Narrative movement includes many gay and lesbian authors, and the works were greatly influenced by the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s. The term “New Narrative” was first coined in Steve Abbott’s magazine Soup. The movement was founded by Robert Glück and Bruce Boone, two poets living in San Francisco in the late 1970s as a reaction and growth from the Language poets. The New Narrative writers began to emerge from a workshop held at Small Press Traffic Bookstore by Robert Glück. New Narrative writings strive to combine a representation of the author as theory-based with a representation of the author as a member of a particular identity without alienating any certain demographic of readers.
Kevin Killian claims that New Narrative writing involved reading, writing, organizing, and gossiping. He cites Kathy Acker’s skepticism of the movement label when she asked Dodie Bellamy, “New Narrative? Why can’t we just call it sex?”
Robert Glück defines the New Narrative movement as writings that possess the following characteristics: awareness of physical space, metatext, poetic strategies applied to prose, creating works out of found material of autobiography and “gossip as legitimate art.”
Robert Glück, in Jack the Modernist:
“The people who know your story are as important as the plot. Gossip registers the difference between a story one person knows and everyone knows, between one person’s story and everyone’s. It it’s a mythology, gods and goddesses, a community and a future.”
Dodie Bellamy, in this fabulous essay:
“I’m drawn to writing that touches core human issues, how we categorize the world, how we survive the chaos that engulfs us. Gossip as a labor of disenfranchized subjectivity feels rich, as do the cagey subversions of Kevin [Killian’s] Amazon reviews.”