Quarter After Eight is an annual literary journal devoted to the exploration of experimental writing in all its permutations. We celebrate work that directly challenges the conventions of language, style, voice, or idea in literary form. This blog is a place to engage in conversations about the work we publish, as well as the work that inspires us.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Interview with David Shields

Our most recent issue includes an interview with David Shields, whose controversial new book, Reality Hunger, flirts with plagiarism and declares fiction dead. In this passage he rails against faux-naive storytelling and outlines some of his vision for a new, more relevant brand of fiction:
QAE: Your book is, in many ways, a challenge to readers. We are challenged to question fiction and question what we want from literature in general. As a reader, too, you seem to want a new way of expression, a hybridization of forms, and a breakdown of literary illusion. And you’re virtually through with fiction. You declare, “The novel is dead. Long live the anti-novel, built from scraps.” I go to Barthes again, though, who wrote, “Isn’t storytelling always a way of searching for one’s origin?” In your opinion, have storytelling and fiction lost their ability to reveal basic truths about our lives?

DS: I’m not arguing against story. That would be preposterous. I’m arguing instead against faux-naÏve storytelling. It’s now not the anecdote that’s lacking, only its character of certainty, its tranquility, its innocence.

QAE: If you were to re-write Barthes’ sentence, what art form would replace “storytelling” as a way for us to seek out our humanity?

DS: The “essay” in its classical sense: the try, the attempt, the journey, experiment. I’m not sure, though, that the goal is anymore to seek out our humanity or find our origins. That sounds a bit old school to me. Maybe explore and problematize those questions—that interests me.

QAE: My question comes out of the apparent anti-fiction thesis of the book, and out of your idea in section 212: “I want the contingency of life, the unpredictability, the unknowability, the mysteriousness, and these are best captured when the work can bend at will to what it needs: fiction, fantasy, memoir, meditation, confession, reportage.”

DS: Sure. I’m not by any means abandoning fiction; there’s a lot of fiction in Reality Hunger. What I want to do, though, is wed it to a larger thematic matrix. I want fiction to be hostage to idea, not the other way around. Otherwise, I’m bored out of my mind.

Read the entire interview at http://www.quarteraftereight.org/shields.htm.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

From "On Erasure"

In our most recent issue, Mary Ruefle writes a celebration of erasure poems, which "Most people, I have found, are either horrified or bored by." Here's an excerpt, but you can read the entire article at http://www.quarteraftereight.org/ruefle.htm.

An erasure is the creation of a new text by disappearing the old text that surrounds it. I don’t consider the pages to be poems, but I do think of them as poetry, especially in sequence and taken as a whole; when I finish an erasure book I feel I have written a book of poetry without a single poem in it, and that appeals to me.

The books have been called “found poems” but I don’t consider them as such. A found poem is a text found in the world, taken out of its worldly context, and labeled a poem. I certainly didn’t “find” any of these pages, I made them in my head, just as I do my other work. In the erasures I can only choose words out of all the words on a given page, while writing regularly I can choose from all the words in existence. In that sense, the erasures are like a “form” —I am restricted by certain rules. I have resisted formal poetry my whole life, but at last found a form I can’t resist. It is like writing my eyes instead of my hands.

I use white-out, buff-out, blue-out, paper, ink, pencil, gouache, carbon, and marker; sometimes I press postage stamps onto the page and pull them off—that literally takes the text right off the page! Once, while working on an all-white erasure, I had the sense I was somehow blinding the words—blindfolding the ones I whited-out, and those that were left had to become, I don’t know, extra-sensory or something. Then I thought, no, I am bandaging the words, and the ones left were those that seeped out.

I’ve made forty-five erasure books, and given many to friends as gifts; one has been published, and several sold into private collections. One or two of the books work when read aloud in public, but most of them don’t. I can’t imagine ever stopping making them, and I hope to be working on one when I die.

You know how when you go into the wilderness you are expected to bring out your trash, leaving nothing behind? I spent the first half of my life leaving words in the world, and will spend the last half taking them out! After all, when they asked Neil Armstrong how he felt about his footsteps being left on the moon, he said he’d like to go back up and erase them

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Confessions of a Justified Sinner

The deadline to submit proposals for our conference, "Defining the New: Experiments and Innovations in English Studies" is coming up. We've already accepted some exciting work and we're sharing a taste of what's to come this October 22-23 here on the blog. To start us off, Jayme Russell explores experimental moves from the sinfully delightful nineteenth century novel, Confessions of a Justified Sinner:
With the first page of James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, readers are unwittingly thrust into the role of the grave raiding archeologist closely examining the disparate parts of the text to unlock a deeper significance. To learn anything from the clues we are given, we must act as interdisciplinary scientists, using knowledge of linguistics, archaeology, and anatomy. By following clues located inside of the grave, the reader can find references relating to Egyptology that suggest Robert Wringhim is a man caught in a state between life and death. This shifting state works with the fragmented pieces of the text to prevent the reader from pinning down solid answers to the questions that arise. This allows Hogg to show that there is no one objective truth, but many subjective perspectives of the same story.
The doubling and then tripling of the text, like the text on the Rosetta Stone, creates an uneasy familiarity for the reader and also points of comparison. Reading different scenes told in different ways, such as the two main death scenes, creates an uncanny effect. The parts that the reader has already examined, in a way, turn into prophesized events. The places where the text matches with other areas of the text also suggests a blurring of events. This sense of the uncanny is also felt when a reader expects something to happen that doesn’t or if small details do not match up, for example the hair color of the body in the grave does not match the hair color of the body in Hogg’s letter. Although we seem to be experiencing the narrative chronologically, we are in reality experiencing these things in cycles. We experience the life, and then we experience it again, and again. There is not one beginning and an end, but a circling back over and over to mimic a life relived...

 You can hear this paper in its entirety at the conference this fall. In the meantime, what are your favorite nineteenth century experiments in literature?

Thursday, September 9, 2010



Guest Reader: Imad Rahman

Keynote Speaker: Anne Francis Wysocki
October 22 - 23 / Ohio University / Athens, Ohio

"Literature is news that stays news." -Ezra Pound

It was Alexander Pope who remarked “the sound must seem an echo to the sense,” while Ezra Pound admonished writers to “make it new.” This conference seeks to explore how theorists, critics, compositionists, essayists, fictionists, poets, and other writers have defined or used different critical paradigms, as well as experimented with different forms to make their writing new or to more perfectly echo their sense.

This conference will dovetail with a feature of critical essays on the history and future of experimental writing in Quarter After Eight, a literary journal focused on innovative writing. All conference papers will be considered for publication in this feature.

We are looking for work from the fields of Comparative Literature, Composition Studies, Creative Writing, Critical Theory, Folklore, Linguistics, Literary History, Rhetoric, and other disciplines related to literary study.

Possible Topics:
-New definitions of the term "experimental"
-The future of experimental writing
-Re-examining early literary experiments, e.g. the work of Alexander Pope, William Blake, Laurence Sterne, the Romantics, the Modernists, Magic Realists, etc.
-Pushing the boundaries of rhetorical traditions and/or pedagogies
-Pushing the boundaries of academic discourse
-Bridging or transgressing genres
-Post-colonial innovations in form
-The influence of critical theory on literary experiments
-L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E or post-avant poetry
-Lyric Essays
-Prose poetry and flash fiction
-Technology's influence on form

Please submit a 1-2 page abstract or a 5-10 page representative sample of your creative work by September 26, 2010 to:

Defining the New: Experiments and Innovations in English Studies
Ohio University Department of English
360 Ellis Hall
Athens, OH 45701