Narrative and non-narrative
The press's most recent development has been the Narrative series – which includes both narrative and non-narrative imaginative prose writing.
The Narrative series grew out of the conviction that there is a body of experimental, extended prose writing which (in the UK at least) has few outlets because it doesn't fit restricted marketing categories.
Explorative writing that brings into question the whole basis of narrative is as old as prose fiction itself - think of Sterne's Tristram Shandy, for example, with its recursive and metafictional routines. Nobody needs reminding that Joyce and Gertrude Stein blew apart the conventions of narrative fiction almost a century ago. Beckett's trilogy progressively deconstructed narration and fictionality and their absurdities, ending on the last page of The Unnamable with the celebrated paradox "I can't go on, I'll go on."
The Surrealists were fascinated with the illogic/hyper-logic of dream narratives. One of their heroes, Raymond Roussel, pioneered the use of arbitrary constraints to generate fantastical content. His methods survive in the work of the Oulipo writers, such as Jacques Roubaud and Georges Perec.
Kafka, Bruno Schulz and Borges extended the subject matter fiction could address, dealing in the metaphysical dimensions beyond our domestic lives. Camus introduced existentialism. Robbe-Grillet and other nouveau roman authors applied a hyper-realistic treatment to domestic banalities which exposed their essential strangeness.
In the USA in the 1950s, William Burroughs exploited Brion Gysin's
cut-up technique to construct novels of extreme fantasy and satire that
followed no known models. Less explosively but no less radically, the
fiction of Thomas Pynchon, Donald Barthelme, Gilbert Sorrentino,
Fielding Dawson and others have formed a counterpoint to
the normative work of such as Bellow, Updike or Joyce Carol Oates.
British official literary culture is predominantly
conservative. But we can point to the cut-up narratives of poets Roy
Fisher and Tom Raworth, the work of Stefan Themerson and Gaberbocchus Press, the 1960s novels of Ann Quin, B S Johnson and Alan Burns
(whose Babel is entirely collage), the experimental fiction of Christine Brooke-Rose, the fantasy fiction of Angela Carter and the 1980s works of Rosalind Belben. The speculative fiction writers of the New Worlds group brought SF imagery into their work, and for a period J G Ballard also experimented with radical form (eg The Atrocity Exhibition).
Closer to the present day, the Language poets in the USA in the 1970s
explicitly questioned narration, fictionality and characterisation, and
the extended prose works of writers such as Lyn Hejinian or Ron
Silliman were sometimes labelled "non-narrative". In contrast and
reaction to these, writers associated with the "New Narrative"
movement, such as Robert Glück, Bruce Boone, Kathy Acker, Dodie Bellamy
and Kevin Killian, have experimented with narrative techniques and
explicit sexual content. Others such as Ron Sukenick and Fanny Howe have widened the boundaries of fiction in their own individual ways. And back in the UK, Iain Sinclair moved from innovative poetry to fiction and imaginative non-fiction.
The Reality Street Narrative series is proud to follow these traditions, and to play its small part in extending them.