Loiterly Intentions

The recent edition of The Review of Contemporary Fiction, the first I have read (with thanks to Vertigo for the introduction), introduced me to the ugly but useful new term loiterature. Coined by Ross Chambers to signify the digressive, category-blurring style of writing of authors like W. G. Sebald, Geoff Dyer, Roger Deakin, Javier Marías and Iain Sinclair.
Warren Motte’s excellent article in the magazine is framed around a story by French author Jean Rolin, yet to find an American publisher, unfortunately). Writing about this “loiterly novel“, Motte explains:

What may be less immediately obvious is the idea of digression as a deeply purposeful narrative technique. However counterintuitive this notion may appear at first glance, upon further consideration it is perfectly reasonable – especially in the context of literary discourse. We easily accept that an author and the narrator that he or she constructs may be quite different in voice, character, purpose. Why should that difference not express itself in the attitude that each evinces with regard to digression? Or as Montalbetti and Piegay-Gros suggest, “If the narrator goes astray, the author, undoubtedly, knows where he’s going. In a literary text, digression is less a sign of going astray; it is not the sign of a lack of mastery in writing, but rather the fiction of a lack of mastery”.

4 thoughts on “Loiterly Intentions

  1. >I hope this term doesn’t catch on. It’s surely the ugliest neologism of recent times and seems particularly inappropriate for what are usually very stylistically careful books.

  2. >An ugly term but we seem to have an innate need to categorise. Many of these books defy existing genres. I tend to think of them as digressive, which is surely a prettier term.

  3. >I agree digressive is preferable and does the job nicely. How about meandering? Seemingly fortuitous but dictated by flow on the one hand and what is encountered on the other. Already used by the Greeks in a metaphorical way. Sinuositive as an alternative, being a synonym.BTW I see you’ve posted on Ballard. Have you read The Kindness of Women? I think it’s his best.

  4. >Meandering is good. It emphasises the contemplative nature of the writing. It takes little away from the intention and has a flâneur quality, which I like.I haven’t read Ballard’s The Kindness of Women but now have it on order. Thank you.

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