April 3, 1995
Although endess numbers of convential novels rehash the same styles and plots, it's interesting that in more "experimental" literature there seems to be very little imitation, as if originality were the primary virtue to strive for. That makes sense, but it's too bad in a way, as there is still a lot to explore imitating Joyce or Beckett or Robbe-Grillet....
Not long ago I thought of doing a series of sketches (440) as a way of forcing myself to get started writing the novel Now The that I've been thinking about for a couple years but have barely written anything for. The idea was that I could just write these sketches without having to worry about whether or not they'd be good. However as I designed the plan for 440 (surely more enjoyable than doing the actual writing will be) it started to take on a life of its own, and I started wanting to make it good too...I was stuck again.
I've been studying French again recently, and reading parts of Raymond Queneau's Exercices de style, in which a single story is told in 99 different ways. Now 440 consists of 12 interrelated short stories in different styles, so that had some similarities to Queneau's work. And I found I quickly thought up more sketches I'd like to incorporate into 440 than the 12 I'd allotted. Most of these were just throw-away things, but they still seemed fun to try writing.
So this past weekend I came up with the idea of writing an imitation of Exercices de style--the idea of writing one story in many ways is one which definitely deserves more attention. And despite Queneau's imagination in his variations, I still think he chose a rather dull story as the base. No doubt that was intentional, but why not pick a different story, one I liked more, and then try writing my own variations?
Of course I would go Queneau one better and write 100 variations instead of 99. This led to the title in a rather convoluted way. Since I'd just named a story 440, I thought I might continue in that trend and name this 100. But then it seemed 99+1 might be more explicit. I'd played similar word games before, so the next natural step was E.D.S.+1. This becomes FET, very close to "fête", the French word for Party. Thus the title, and also the theme for the story. The plan for the story is the first story.