M.T. Anderson's Break Out Session, or Why My Head Exploded at SCBWI


I promised I'd do a post on M.T. Anderson's breakout session for Experimental Fiction at SCBWI. 

Here he is practicing his speech in a corner before the class. We thought that was so cool. 

He started things off by discussing a poem by Kurt Schwitters.
It's probably not a surprise that this man wrote Experimental poetry. Anyway, we discussed his "Poem 25". I tried to find it on the stupid internetz, but no luck. So, I'll do my best to recreate what I remember.

25, 25, 26
26, 26, 27
27, 27, 28
32, 34, 36, 38
33, 35, 37, 39
9, 9, 9
8, 8, 8, 
7, 7, 7, 
6, 6, 6, 
3/4, 6, 6, 
4, 4, 4, 
3/4, 4, 4,
4, 1/4, 

Okay, so that's not the precise poem, but it's something like that, and it is weird for two reasons: 

One: this poem happens to be my exact answer when somebody asks me my age.
Two: I don't know if you noticed, but this poem is made up entirely of numbers. 

Somehow when M.T. Anderson read it aloud, though, it made perfect sense, and I started thinking, "Duh, of course 59 would be followed by three 6's. It's an inevitability! And the third line is just foreshadowing the triumph of the number 4."

Thankfully, M.T. hit on something closer to my own reading level next. 

He's all, "Notice how Seuss goes from counting the fish to discussing the colors?"

I start nodding my head emphatically. "Yes! Yes! I get that! I totally noticed that!"

At one point, Matt Kirby (or He Who Shall not be Named on the Blog) wondered how to translate experimental examples like these into longer works, like novels. 

Matt has a point. I wouldn't want to read an entire novel written in numbers.

I'm a little unclear on the concept, and I'm not familiar with large works of experimental fiction, but the lecture reminded me of how much I enjoyed the movie Brick.

The movie uses words in a new way (to me), where the dialogue means what it sounds like spoken aloud, even if the words don't make sense by their lonesomes. 

For instance, after the main character Brendan gets beat up by a thug, he confronts the gang leader "The Pin". Read it out loud. Don't be afraid. Even if you're at work:

Brendan Frye: Your muscle seemed plenty cool putting his fist in my head. I want him out.
The Pin: Looky, soldier...
Brendan Frye: The ape blows or I clam. 

And later, telling his friends he doesn't want to involve the authorities:

Brendan Frye: No, bulls would gum it. They'd flash their dusty standards at the wide-eyes and probably find some yegg to pin, probably even the right one. But they'd trample the real tracks and scare the real players back into their holes, and if we're doing this I want the whole story. No cops, not for a bit. 

Cool, huh? 

I wish I could compose some conclusive sentence, summing it all up, but I lack the brain cells. Maybe Matt Kirby could. He seemed to be on the same level as M.T. 

Leave a comment, so I know I'm not the only one going... Wha??? 

Or just tell me what y'all are up to this weekend.