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The thing that struck me the most about the German Expressionism exhibit at the New York City Museum of Modern Art was the artists believed their art would change their societies.
I am no art historian, so I recognize I may be missing some of the larger context, but the aftermath of World War I left many Germans in despair. These artists turned to themes of religion, spirituality, sexuality and others in an attempt to raise standards and inspire the German people to change.
It didn’t work. There was no widespread societal or cultural revolution.
The reason these artists’ goal to start a revolution struck me so is that most contemporary artists react to what’s going on in the world around them. For example, an reactionary image that’s stuck with me since high school Spanish class is a painting by Antonio Caro. It’s simply the word “Columbia” painted in white on a red background like the Coca-Cola logo.
It comments on the fact that Columbia has become commercialized and Westernized, with the popularity and spread of Coca-Cola used to symbolize that change.
Caro doesn’t want Columbia to become commercialized, he’s simply reacting to the fact that it has, whereas many of these German Expressionist painters made religious wood block prints in the hopes that the people would see them and become more religious or spiritual.
Metafiction (and literature in general), too, is often used to react to cultural and societal issues, like war, racism and religion.
But should art and literature be relegated to this reactionary position? Or did the German Expressionists have the right idea in trying to enact change through their work?
The strongest argument against artists trying to change the world, so to speak, is that the expressionists failed. Art should also give people a voice to comment on what goes on in the world around them. Indeed, sometimes art can criticize far more effectively than political discourse or mere talk.
As an artist myself (through literature, not visual art), I do believe in art’s transformative power. Perhaps, though, artists should focus on changing individuals rather than entire societies or cultures.
Change does, after all, start with one person.
First, I apologize for not posting last week. I have a (at least I think) pretty good reason, and I plan on posting twice this week to make up for it.
This past weekend my husband and I took a trip into New York City and did lots of artsy fartsy things (the MoMA, Phantom of the Opera, a cute little show near Chinatown called Coyote, and Start Again that was quite hilarious), so I’ve got lots to talk about.
We really needed this vacation, because throughout March I was busily preparing for my first semester as an MFA candidate at Chatham University! I’m very excited, but I had to fill out the FAFSA, register for classes, apply for fellowships and graduate assistanceships, apply for scholarships and get other things taken care of. Most (but certainly not all) of those things are taken care of now so I’m hoping my life will be a bit calmer until classes start at the end of August.
In the meantime, check out this author interview I did with Sherry Shahan, author of the awesomely awesome Purple Daze on Figment! I of course had to cut a few questions from the final draft, but they were really interesting so I will post the “extra” answers here for your reading pleasure either later this week or next week. (I really should come up with some sort of editorial calendar, shouldn’t I? I have tried a few times and I never seem to stick to it…)
While you’re at it, you can check out all of my book reviews for The Figment Review. Not to toot my own horn, but I think they’re enjoyable.
The lovely and talented Anita Nordlunde has also now posted both German and French translations of excerpts from Ruby and the Moon on her website Welsh Corgi News, which is AWESOME! How many authors can say they’ve been translated into foreign languages before they even publish a book?! Not many, but I’m one of them! =D You can find each version of the translation by clicking on the appropriate country’s flag. (And she has like, the cutest little corgi graphics on there ever).
And, finally, here’s a list of things you can expect to see here in the coming weeks/months:
- “Extra” questions from my Sherry Shahan interview, as well as a discussion of storytelling techniques in Purple Daze
- An exploration of some of the art we saw at MoMA in New York City
- An article on Phantom of the Opera
- An article on Coyote, and Start Again
- An article on the omniscient narrator and authorial intervention (and Stardust)
- A series of pieces looking at the way The Killers tell stories in their songs/albums
- A series of articles about Bones
I’m still shaking my head and going “What?” as I look at it.
In case you can’t tell from my not-so-great cell phone picture, it features a woman (she actually is holding a guitar, you can just barely see the neck) from behind. The “Hip Pockets” guide sticks out of her back jeans pocket, and of course, has a photo of her with the guide in her jeans on it. And on and on and on and on.
This isn’t a book, it’s a fold out, laminated pamphlet-type thing. It would have made more sense to me if the guide were stuck in the guitar strings, but then I suppose it wouldn’t be illustrating the “hip pocket” concept.
Not that this guide actually fits in a pocket, unless we’re talking about those skater pants pockets from the ’90s. It’s is way too tall, so that doesn’t even work.
I can’t help but feel this was a poor cover choice for a guitar-tuning guide. If I were the Meta Police, I might have to slap a pair of handcuffs on this sucker for gross misuse of metafiction… but I’m not, so I’ll just scratch my head and wonder what the art director was thinking when s/he designed this…
September 6, 2010 in Metaart, Metafiction, Metajournalism, Metamusic, Metanonfiction, MetaTV, Original Fiction | Tags: literary criticism, Metafiction, novel, novels, short stories | by Kelly Lynn Thomas | 6 comments
Welcome to Metafiction Week! I am excited to be celebrating all things meta, and I hope you are too!
Things are changing around here—a little bit anyway. In addition to blogging about metafiction, I’ll also be talking about storytelling in general, works that bend and blend genres and interesting structures in fiction and nonfiction.
Why? Because I think all of these things are closely linked to metafiction. Since metafiction often offers commentary on the story itself, storytelling is an important aspect. Structure is also important, as many stories rely on nontraditional structures to support commentary.
Genre bending/blending is a bit of a different topic, but I feel it fits nicely with metafiction. In some books the metafictional qualities help the author bend genres (as in The Things They Carried), while in others structure is used (as in Woman Warrior).
I will also drop in some discussions on experimental fiction as I see fit. With changes in technology, the way we experience stories is starting to change. I’m very interested in the direction novels, ebooks, choose-your-own-adventure, cell phone novels and serialized fiction will take from here.
Even if those things aren’t metafictional, they are important to the art of storytelling. So, at its heart, this is a blog about storytelling. It’s a blog about the way we look at storytelling, the way we experience stories, and how we can use storytelling for a variety of purposes. I think metafiction is an important part of that.
For that reason, I’m keeping my tag line: “Original fiction and commentary on everything meta.” Now, it might be more accurate to use something like, “Original fiction and commentary on the art of storytelling,” but meta is commentary on the art of storytelling.
I have four ultimate goals for this blog. The first and most important is:
- To expand readers’ and writers’ knowledge of and appreciation for metafiction.
Think of me as like a metafiction pastor, spreading the good word. Only I won’t shake hell in your face to convert you, I’ll convert you with damn good stories!
The other three are:
- To become the go-to resource for metafiction. (A lofty goal, I know.)
- To (eventually) showcase the best new metafiction by established and new authors, both here online and in print.
- To explore and master storytelling in my own writing.
In the near future I hope to start interviewing important authors who write metafiction, and I also hope to be able to take submissions of short stories and short creative nonfiction (and be able to offer payment for this content).
In the not so near future I hope to offer a printed companion to this blog, with in-depth critical articles as well as great metafiction, metanonfiction, and meta-art.
My reading list
These are only a small portion of the books on my reading (or to-buy) list, but they are the ones that contain metafictional elements. I am particularly looking forward to The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loanna, The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris (which is translated from the French, and I definitely need more translations in my life), and, of course, Don Quixote in English!
- The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris by Leila Marouane
- The House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
- The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
- The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loanna by Umberto Eco
- Don Quixote by Cervantes (I’m reading this again, because I’ve only ever read it in Spanish, and it’s a difficult text to read in a second language.)
Please take the time to comment and let me know who you’d like me to interview, or what books you’d like me to review. What’s on your reading list?
Starting tomorrow, I will be celebrating metafiction with art, book reviews, original fiction, and a few surprises. Now that my life has normalized, I want to make this blog the best it can be, and the go-to resource for metafiction. So please join me this week for my meta-celebration!
Sept. 6: The “new” NitB, plus my meta reading list — what’s on your list?
Sept. 7: An examination of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (is it meta?)
Sept. 8: Meta-links and meta artworks!
Sept. 9: A new chapter of Ruby and the Moon
Sept. 10: The unveiling of a surprise (or two)!
Let me know what you’d like to see here. Or shoot me an email at email@example.com. After this week, posting will return to normal once-a-week stuff.
Recently I’ve seen not one, but two publication covers that devolve into an ever tinier spiral of meta-ness! Both use the same format, but their goals and effects are wildly different.
It starts with an image of a person on the cover of a book or magazine. That person is also holding the book or magazine in the picture. And the cover-in-the-cover version of that person is also holding the book or magazine! And the cover-in-the-cover-in-the-cover person is also holding the book or magazine! And… on and on it goes into infinity.
A memoir wrapped in meta
The first example of this format I saw at a local Barnes & Noble. It was Kathy Griffin’s Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin. I don’t know anything about Griffin, and after reading the back cover it seemed to mostly contain celebrity-themed stories and gossip (not my cup of tea), so despite its alluring meta-cover I didn’t pick it up.
But of course, my first inclination when I see anything meta is to ask “Why? What is this meta accomplishing?”
Since Griffin is a comedian, and the memoir is supposed to be funny, my best guess is that the cover designer thought it would be, well, funny. As you can see, the cover photo depicts Griffin acting the part of Miss America, only her sash reads “Official Book Club Selection.”
Basically, she’s making fun of authors and things like Oprah’s Book Club. The fact that she’s holding a copy of her own book, and showing it off as if it were a trophy or award reinforces the farce—and the comedy.
So why? It’s funny! And satirical. And we all know satire is a meta (and comedian) forte.
Via Twitter, I got a free subscription to Star Lee Magazine, which is aimed at female entrepreneurs and mom-preneurs (yeah, I don’t like the term either, but is author-preneur any better?). Lo and behold, Ms. Star Ladin, publisher of Star Lee Magazine, is all wrapped up in earth-toned silk, holding a copy of the latest issue of Star Lee, featuring its publisher all wrapped up in silk…etc.
Each issue of Star Lee is “themed.” It focuses on a specific skill or characteristic meant to help you succeed “on your own terms.” The theme for Vol. 1 Issue 2 is “Authentic You.”
In the premier issue of the magazine and in various email newsletters, Star Ladin has talked about her dream to create a community for heart-centered entrepreneurs, and a magazine to help them grow their businesses and their selves.
If that has been her dream (and this issue of the magazine focuses on authenticity), then it makes sense that Ladin would want to represent her “authentic” self as holding a copy of the magazine she’s worked so hard to create.
The “fashion” spread of this issue features the fashion editor dressed up in different outfits that represent different facets of herself, as well, which emphasizes the point. Who are you, and where do you see yourself? What do you need to be you, and how do you show that to the world?
The fashion editor shows it through her clothing choice. Ladin shows it by publishing a magazine that helps other female entrepreneurs. And designing meta magazine covers.
What would the meta cover of your book or magazine look like?