At last a major anthology of New Narrative, the movement fueled by punk, pop, porn, French theory, and social struggle to change writing forever.
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In the twenty years that followed America’s bicentennial, narrative writing was re-formed, reflecting new political and sexual realities. With the publication of this anthology, the New Narrative era bounds back to life, ripe with dramatic propulsion and infused with the twin strains of poetry and continental theory. The reader will discover classic New Narrative texts, from Robert Glück to Kathy Acker, as well as rare supplemental materials, including period interviews, essays, and talks, which form a new map of late 20th century creative rebellion.
Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian’s edited anthology, Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative 1977–1997, takes an expansive view. A monumental tome decades in the making, it contains the work of forty-two recognised and little-known authors…Published, unpublished, and long-forgotten works, interviews, illustrations, and ephemera are all included, and each piece is accompanied by an invaluable note by Bellamy and Killian offering context and contributing to a sense of an exceptionally large, diverse, and exciting writing scene.Proof that nothing sticks a scene together like bodily fluids, the editors’ notes are also heavy on gossip and innuendo. Like New Narrative prose itself, which often used salacious, intimate asides to establish a conspiratorial relationship with its reader, Bellamy and Killian’s reminiscences seem designed to make their reader feel included or at least momentarily implicated in their community.
New Narrative, a late twentieth-century art movement that fused queer praxis, radical politics, and daring writing, is now on arguably on its third or fourth “wave,” but I had not encountered it until recently. Now the similarly uninitiated can thank Nightboat for publishing the delightful and overdue anthology Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative 1977-1997. As editors Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian explain in their introduction, the movement reshaped narrative into “a system of writing designed to be optimally responsive to cultural and political change.” Indeed the personal essays, auto-fiction, interviews, and criticism in this collection explode notions of “good” writing and art in order to build something true to modern lived experience.
Writers Who Love Too Much shows the extent to which its tentacles reached out to a wide range of non-naturalistic poets, essayists, novelists, and even playwrights across the U.S. and beyond. Key figures include both of this volume’s editors, whose generosity in their introduction is characteristic of all the key NN writers. While East Coast publishing matrix became ever more ruthless, corporate, and opportunistic in the ‘80s and ‘90s, including in its promotion of LBGT books as subgenre, the New Narrators focused on avant-garde collaboration, dialogue, and mutual support (mostly). They did not hope to make money or have a commercial “hit,” and in almost every case they succeeded in commercial failure!
In their new anthology, Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative 1977–1997, editors Bellamy and Killian gather what they consider the first generation of New Narrative writing—though in keeping with the movement’s suspicion of linear, coherent narratives, they are quick to shrug at this marker. Formed in the late 1970s in San Francisco, New Narrative was a transgressive, queer-leaning, self- and body-obsessed literary avant-garde that took shape in part against the dominance of anti-narrative, self-evacuating Language poetry at the time. Combining the confessional with the conceptual, it experimented with the possibilities of loosely autobiographical storytelling to produce an exploded and unstable “I.” Gossipy and uninhibited, its breath is hot in your ear. It wants to tell you everything, and it wants you to overshare back.