Fillip 6 — Summer 2007

There is little respect for those who claim that Superman is not Clark Kent: Fiction, Criticism, and the Art of Anti-Suspense
Maria Fusco

Here is an arrow whose flight would consist in a return to the bow: fast enough, in sum, never to have left it; and what the sentence says—its arrow—is withdrawn. It will nevertheless have reached us, struck home; it will have taken some time—it will, perhaps, have changed the order of the world even before we are able to awake to the realization that, in sum, nothing will have been said, nothing that will not already have been blindly endorsed in advance. And again, like a testament: for the natural miracle lies in the fact that such sentences outlive each author and each specific reader, him, you and me, all of us, all the living, all the living presents.1

The bridge between fiction writing and visual art making is a wide one, too broad in fact to traverse with surefooted assurance. Increasingly, I’ve become interested in fiction that positions “anti-suspense” as its primary creative process and how this type of writing may be utilized to probe readers’ attitudes towards their presence within contemporary art criticism.

Such anti-suspense may be described as a response to, or break from, traditional narrative structures where the reader/viewer experiences a beginning, middle, and end, in that order. Because such stories are propagated around us on a daily basis, we have specific expectations and anticipations that are redolent of narrative form itself. We assume that there will be characters and action. We expect a series of incidents that will be connected in some way, and that the problems or conflicts arising in the course of the action will achieve some final state: either that they will be resolved, or at least a new light will be cast on them. We as viewers come prepared to make a narrative reading of any creative encounter. I would argue that this is as true of reading fiction as “reading” art, in that we consistently attempt to make a whole out of sometimes dislocated or unhinged fragments.

Quotidian cause and effect, and its experiential relationship to time, is central to looking at and making sense of the world around us. Here I am considering “time” as the chronological space that looking takes place within, both in terms of the personal time spent in the act of “reading,” and the historic timeline or literary lineage within which a work is placed. What I am suggesting is that temporal compression through looking is an activity in and of itself.

Criticism is one part of this process—the reflective component—where the vocative honesty of the complete object is generally favoured over the idea of a leaky object. This encourages the viewer/reader to “cruise” the text or artwork in a more profound manner. This is akin to Roland Barthes’ evocative description of a book, “braided, woven, in the most personal way, the relation of every kind of bliss: those of ‘life’ and those of text, in which reading and the risks of real life are subject to the same anamnesis.”2 This action of cruising the surface of a text or artwork in whatever combinations prove to be the most satisfying, useful, and most importantly precise at any given reading, is vital if we are to adhere to Ezra Pound’s assertion that: “Fundamental accuracy of statement is the ONE sole morality of writing.”3

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About the Author

Maria Fusco is a Belfast-born writer and academic based in London. She recently edited Put About: A Critical Anthology on Independent Publishing produced out of a conference at Tate Modern that she organized. She is currently developing a new journal The Happy Hypocrite for and about experimental writing within visual arts.

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