Experiments, Seinfeld and Literature are three of my big favourites in life.
Ask my mother—even as a young girl I loved to experiment. When my aunt and my mom went dancing, my cousin Mickey and I would take all of my mother’s baking supplies and half of what was in the fridge and play “Just Like Mom.” We did such a great job of cleaning up that she didn’t suspect a thing.
For those of you who can’t remember the show, here’s a snippet:
And the cooking experiments continue. Ask my son. When he was young, he would ask, “Mama, what is this called?”
And I’d respond, “Rachel’s Creation Number 634.”
It drove him nuts! But the apple didn’t fall far from the tree…
Last night I was all cozy warm, watching Seinfeld with my Seinfeld-loving soulmate—you know the episode with Jerry’s girlfriend who “can’t spare a square” and, as Kramer puts it, has a “flinty” voice? My friend, largely a non-reader, chuckled and said, “Look at how they tie everything neatly together at the end!”
Google Seinfeld and you’ll have a lot of reading material on your hands. Here are some of the random sites that popped up when I Googled Seinfeld + experiment:
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/lewis-krell/seinfeld-after-15-years-a_b_3256489.html This article discussed Seinfeld’s relevancy 15 years later. I like his idea of starting at season 9 and working our way backwards.
Check out this site if you’ve ever wanted a virtual reality tour of Jerry’s place. https://creators.vice.com/en_us/article/bmyxga/a-virtual-reality-experiment-about-nothing-explore-the-seinfeld-set-with-oculus-rift
Ok, Rach, what’s this got to do with writing?
“In many ways, experimental writing (on the page and in other mediums) marries literature and the interactivity of theater (and the gaming world).” http://www.thereviewreview.net/publishing-tips/experimental-writing-its-about-more-looking-
I had a discussion with a writing-friend the other day. She was bummed about writing, how we’ll probably never make a living doing it unless we start writing “women’s fiction.” I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the next Danielle Steele or Maeve Binchy. Nor do I want to be. But that’s just me.
I thought about two books I read last year that most people hated, but I loved—The Vegetarian by Han Kang and Greif is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter. I realize now that maybe people who like more traditional writing didn’t understand the appeal of such different literature, but for me the unusual structure/POV/style is what stood out.
I like literature that leaves me thinking about what I read years later. If you haven’t read A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, you should. It has a unique narrative style. There is nothing about the way the novel was written that I didn’t appreciate. If you want a real reading experience, pick up a copy. But don’t read the reviews or look at the two-star rating.
Maybe that’s why I like watching Seinfeld reruns so much. Most of the time, it takes a while before you start to see the parts of the story come together, and that excites me. It’s basically a story about nothing, a bunch of scenarios that come together at the end like they do in real life and in literature and in bizarre dreams. This is good unmasqueraded storytelling. I’m not one for sitting still, but I’ll do it to binge watch my four favourite friends.
I like to think about how improbable Seinfeld must have seemed—a show about nothing—lasting nine years. And I’m sure the show could have gone on. It still goes on in many people’s living rooms—and the characters are memorable.
The creators of Seinfeld took risks. They experimented with characters and the way they revealed information, yet at the end everything came together. Does everyone like Seinfeld? No. But most people feel strongly one way or the other.
Links that might be of interest
My own experimental nonfiction work:
A discussion of nonfiction forms, including experimental nonfiction: https://matadornetwork.com/notebook/1-types-of-nonfiction-and-how-to-write-them/
Experimenting in fiction: http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/experimental.shtml
In short, there are many ways of approaching experimental fiction beyond the traditional constraints of plot, linear story-telling, consistent viewpoints, and the custom of keeping the author separate from the story. Experimental fiction is about creating something innovative, and letting people know that you meant to do that. (This is an excerpt from the article.)
Poetic experiments: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/bernstein/experiments.html