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Last week I asked how explicit is too sexually explicit for teens. This week I want to ask a similar question about form rather than content: how experimental is too experimental? This question, like last week’s, was keyed to a book I was reading, Book III, edited by Joshua S. Raab, and published by theNewerYork Press. This is a fabulous collection of brief vignettes, images, and snatches of prose, often intimately tied to unique visual elements of the text, and all challenging the reader’s assumptions about narrative, prose, and poetry. Here’s how the publisher describes it:
theNewerYork Press publishes experimental fiction in print and online. We want to ed the triumvirate of short-stories, poetry, and novels; we want to explore new and forgotten literary forms.
Much of this is impossible to reproduce here, because of its various graphic elements, but here’s a relatively straightforward one:
to·ma·toes/tə ‘ matoz/: nobody says tomahtos
Che·Gue·ver·a/CHā/gə ‘ värə/: rare Brazilian Cheese
ab·stract·art/ab ‘ strakt/ärt/: when “I don’t get it” is kind of, like, getting it
I find this very funny, and especially the last one to be quite profound. Other, less reproducible bits include a Shakespeare sonnet transliterated into morse code, upside-down and sideways text, pages meant to represent newspapers or copy-edited pages, and much more. Some are much more serious, and some less comprehensible than the above, and there are 15-20 illustrations as well.
My instinct is that this sort of playful formalism is the province of the young, but my question for today is: how young? My personal experience is that I was quite intolerant to formal experimentation in high school, but became infatuated with it in college as an English major. So, what are your experiences? Are teens that you work with interested in experimental literature? Exasperated by it? Willing to give it a try?
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About Mark Flowers
Mark Flowers is the Young Adult Librarian at the John F. Kennedy Library in Vallejo, CA. He reviews for a variety of library journals and blogs and recently contributed a chapter to The Complete Summer Reading Program Manual: From Planning to Evaluation (YALSA, 2012). Contact him via Twitter @droogmark
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