September 17, 2013 by bhjames78
A few weekends from now Liz and I will be flying up to Portland, OR for the Wordstock Festival, where on Saturday (October 5) I will be reading with Don Waters at 2PM, and on Sunday (October 6) at 4:30PM, I will be conducting a workshop titled, “The Problem of Originality.”
The workshop is based on a paper I wrote and a lecture I gave as an MFA student in University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Low Residency program. The paper was ridiculously titled, “John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse, Which Is to Say All Literature, And on That Note Everything, And How It Relates to Me, Me Being Everyone, And What Borges, Also Everyone, Also Me, Has to Do With All of That, Which Is to Say Everything” and both it and the lecture focused on how Barth, and Jorge Luis Borges before him, deals with a medium that is “exhausted,” or finite.
Neither Barth nor Borges find this exhaustion to be a problem, or at least don’t find it to be a limitation; rather, they use the fact that there are only so many things to say to say something entirely new.
A great example of this is Barth’s story, “Frame Tale,” which is the only story I know of that requires, in order to read it, scissors and glue. So if you’re in Portland the first weekend of October and you come to my workshop, you’ll get to read said story using said scissors and glue, and then, amongst other things, we’ll discuss what we, as fiction writers, which we all in one way or another are, can learn from it.
The workshop will address the question: how does one create a truly original work of art in a medium—or a world—in which originality is impossible? As a preview, here’s a segment of the talk when given at the Univ of Neb Residency: