Ron Carnage: the Anti-novel?

 
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On this week’s episode of Pod Carnage, Tom struck gold on not only a great marketing term, but a pretty decent way of describing the upcoming debut novella by Aaron Matthew Matthews. It checks most of the criteria boxes, although it may not be as experimental as the term “antinovel” might suggest. Let’s break it down…


The definition of an antinovel according to dictionary.com is:

a literary work in which the author rejects the use of traditional elements of novel structure, especially in regard to development of plot and character.
— dictionary.com

Wikipedia, the ever-growing fountain of absolute fact adds these criteria to the already ambiguous and obscure genre of fiction.

  • Fragments and distorts the experience of its characters, presenting events outside of chronological order and attempting to disrupt the idea of characters with unified and stable personalities

  • Some principal features of antinovels include lack of obvious plot, minimal development of character, variations in time sequence, experiments with vocabulary and syntax, and alternative endings and beginnings

  • Extreme features may include detachable or blank pages, drawings, and hieroglyphics.


Without giving away too much of the story, let me make a case for why The Thinker Boy checks a lot of these boxes.

Ron Carnage: The Thinker Boy takes the bullet points of a well organized plot line, throws them all on a table, and scrambles it up. That’s not to say it’s entirely out of order, but there are several flashback chapters that are disconnected from the main story, but over time develop a story in themselves. Not ground breaking to be sure… Where it gets really abstract is when we’re introduced to our talking animal companions. They don’t just happen upon the story, they audition for the roles in the story in a parallel universe, the far away land of Los Angeles, California. After the taping of a live game show, our beloved animal companion lands the role of his life in the novella, but it’s not clear for quite a while how he’ll join our heroes centuries back in time.

Lack of obvious plot seems a little harsh, but isn’t quite unjustified for this story, especially during the first half. I don’t necessarily agree that there’s a lack of character development in the story as a whole, but the dialogue driven story that flows in and out of self-aware rhyming and poetic structure definitely sets itself apart from most other mainstream, classically written novels.

As far as blank pages and hieroglyphics… what the fuck? Why?

That being said, The Thinker Boy will feature several handwritten journal entires that will be scanned into the eBook and paperback versions, as well as mockups of newspaper classifieds and op-ed sections, that once again, don’t always refer directly to the plot itself, but form a mini-series in it’s own right.

Now, the real question is, is Ron Carnage: The Thinker Boy experimental enough to fully consider itself an anti-novel? I think so, and largely because there are so few novels categorized as such, with Wikipedia referring to one French novel from the 40s, and one from several centuries ago.

I think we have every right to blur the lines of what is considered an antinovel, if not redefine the genre entirely, the same way Brady Haran redefined the term “freebooting” on my favorite podcast, Hello Internet.

This isn’t some avant-garde, experimental performance art piece, and I don’t think “antinovel” is absolutely perfect in every sense of the word, but it’s a hell of a lot closer than “novel”, and we’re for sure rolling with it for now.

If you want to hear Tom and Pat’s discussion about this, you can listen to this week’s episode of Pod Carnage below, or at www.podcarnage.com