Thursday, September 06, 2007

BRAIN STRAINERS # 348: CONSTRAINED WRITING

From the incomparable Anvar Alikhan comes this nugget of information:

Constrained writing is a literary technique in which the writer is bound by some condition that forbids certain things or imposes a pattern. For example:

Gadsby is an English-language novel consisting of 50,000 words, none of which contain the letter “e.”
The 2004 French novel Le Train de Nulle Part (The Train from Nowhere) by Michel Thaler was written entirely without verbs.
Cadaeic Cadenza is a short story by Mike Keith that uses the digits of pi as the length of words.
Never Again is a novel by Doug Nufer in which no word is used more than once.
Alphabetical Africa is a book by Walter Abish in which the first chapter only uses words that begin with the letter "a," while the second chapter incorporates the letter "b," and then "c," etc. Once the alphabet is finished, Abish takes letters away, one at a time, until the last chapter, leaving only words that begin with the letter "a."
Mary Godolphin produced versions of Pilgrim's Progress and Robinson Crusoe Words of One Syllable.
One famous example from the Chinese language is The Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den which consists of 92 characters ... all with the sound shi!


Meanwhile! My life has recently been overtaken (yet again!) by ... hold your breath ... FACEBOOK. I am resisting it in small ways -- for instance, I don't spend the WHOLE day online, but only 15 hours out of 24. Quite restrained, wouldn't you say? I've not signed up using my name as a (possibly feeble) means of keeping my presence there discreet but I realize this is a bit idiotic considering the site is really a form of existential striptease in which the participants hang all the wet and sticky bits of their lives out on the clothesline of the web for all to see. Since I need to reserve my sticky bits for exposure in my books, I simply can't afford to do any of that! So if some of you avid Facebookers want to catch up with my FB persona you're going to have to post messages to me and if I feel like it, I'll respond with a link and handle.

5 comments:

gt said...

and of course (presuming constrained writing) we should also remember - with utmost fondness vikram seth's "the golden gate" .... from wiki-"The first of his (vikram seth's) novel, The Golden Gate (1986), is indeed a novel in verse about the lives of a number of young professionals in San Francisco. The novel is written entirely in rhyming tetrameter sonnets after the style of Charles Johnston's 1977 translation of Aleksandr Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (although Eugene Onegin, both in the original Russian and in Johnston's translation, are in the Onegin stanza of iambic tetrameter)."

he (VS) does this in the "dedication, the "acknowledgments", and even the "contents" as he tackles the entire novel - its pretty cool for better or verse (yeah) gt

Sharanya Manivannan said...

Can't find you on FB!

Marginalien said...

Haha -- that's coz I haven't used my "real" name -- the quotation marks are because even in the real world, one of my web-handles has achieved the status of a name -- even to the extent of having nicknames based on THAT name rather than my birth-name.

And no -- I'm not going to unveil it here! That would spoil the game, dontcha think?

John said...

Hi Marginalien,

Welcome to the club! I too got initiated recently and am an addict by now.

So what's your handle?

;)

John

Marginalien said...

Nice try! But you'll have to figger it out for yourself just like the rest of the world (unless you happen to be someone I know. Are you?) ...