There aren't many literary movements anymore, few avant collectives, no gardes of any sort. We're not joiners, apparently, lately. Each manifesto is signed by only one—authors Jonathan Franzen's and Ben Marcus' catfight over the merits of "difficult" fiction in the pages of Harper's, for example. Me, I blame/thank the Internet for this state of affairs, the collapse of public spaces and of fellow-feeling in general, the isolating vacuum of modern living, etc., etc.
But Fiction Collective Two, which sprang, Athena-from-Zeus-style, from the Fiction Collective of the '70s and '80s, is perhaps one of the last of the old guard of collectives. Still, it is not a movement so much as it is a geographically dispersed co-op, an artist-owned publishing venue for adventurous prose and nontraditional forms—forms often dubbed "experimental" as if the real stuff were still forthcoming. It isn't. It's already here, and in the current sports-interview parlance "it is what it is."
The original Fiction Collective counted among its founding members Noah Baumbach's dad Jonathan, who was the basis for Jeff Daniels' hyperliterate, myopic blowhard of a character in The Squid and the Whale. But say what you will about the guy: You'd still rather read his book than the Laura Linney character's staid and stately New Yorker prose. The two iterations of the FC press have also featured luminaries Ronald Sukenick, Raymond Federman, Steve Katz, Eurudice, Brian Evenson and Fanny Howe, among others.
This weekend FC2 is in Portland, putting on the Writer's Edge workshops for innovative fiction, for people making the stuff themselves, so that they have someone to talk to about it (they usually don't). This, of late, happens every year around here. What's nice for those of you in the generally literate public is that FC2 is also holding a reading this Friday at Powell's featuring the workshop faculty. So you get to sample Kate Bernheimer's fairy tales for adults, Lance Olsen's far-flung speculations and re-imaginings, local writer Lidia Yuknavitch's engaged fiction of the body, Steve Tomasula's genre-refusenik visual fictions, and Noy Holland's rich prose of voice and iteration and the feeling of the words in your mouth.
Of course, some of these descriptions of some of these people could also apply to some of the others, a little. You understand how it is.
On Sunday at Worksound Gallery, Holland will also be reading from a newly available chapbook (UDLE Press) featuring excerpts from her novel in progress. The novel, Holland has said, extends from the ambivalence and competition between "here" and "there": the fact that one is always taking from the other but needs the other to make sense. That is to say, it's about hitchhiking.
READ: The Writer's Edge faculty reading will be held Friday, July 25, at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-4651. 7:30 pm. Free. Noy Holland will read from her chapbook Sunday, July 27 at Worksound Gallery, 820 SE Alder St. 7 pm. $3-$5 suggested donation.