Saturday, 4 July 2009

The Elimae Aesthetic

I have always been compelled by elimae. Like the quiet one at the party, it had its own presence. There's just something about it that I can't distill, try as I might. A verbal and visual aesthetic. Coop Renner, editor since 2004, talks about it like this:

'I find myself asking writers to get rid of merely functional writing: words and sentences which are primarily content and not 'music.'

'I don’t mind mystery; I don’t mind obliquity. I don’t want the obvious.' 'I sort of want the writing in elimae to work like a Zen koan.' 'Van Gogh’s Sunflowers: nobody looks at that to ‘learn’ about sunflowers. You look at it to admire the way he put the paint on the canvas.' 'I have a great fondness for the Victorians'

All of which points towards the extremities of the old chestnuts: 'show don't tell' and 'kill your darlings' (but make it beautiful to read). Except that thing about the Victorians. But then if you read carefully, there is a definite Victorian/Chekhovian vibe going on.

Bottom line - take it to the extreme. Cut away. Don't flag it up. Keep it subtle. And so on.

Which brings me to short shorts, and Eric Beeny's 'Two Fictions' is a masterpiece of the form. So much understated possibility in so few words. It's one to read over and over.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Frank, Thanks for the shout-out. I'm happy you liked those two stories.