The Writhing Society meets to practice and discuss the techniques of constrained writing. We practice the methods invented by ourselves and by other writers, artists, musicians, and mathematicians. Today's exercise: At home with Fodor & Perec
Paris is made of stuff worth seeing, stuff textured with history, stuff to write about—architecture and saints, parks and food, and local people and their culture. Fodor made a living out of it. Perec lived it. Eugene Fodor, an avid traveler, bored with the dry travel guides of his day, began writing tourist guides, dropping dry facts for enticing details, publishing guides many a traveler considers essential luggage. Fodor writes about Église St. Sulpice. It’s dubbed the Cathedral of the Left Bank, his travel guide knows to tell you, the place where Marquis de Sade and Baudelaire were christened, where Victor Hugo got hitched. As a tip Fodor includes that its congregation makes for good people-watching, that is, when there are confirmations and weddings. In “An Attempt to Exhaust a Place in Paris,” Georges Perec takes on the church’s entire plaza, the place where he saw his parents last. With his pen he records what is seen but not heeded, the stuff of daily life, stuff imbued with the extraordinary in the ordinary. He charts brief details of buses and people who pass, not worrying about repetition.
Today we’ll channel Fodor in describing our shelter from the storm in all its architectural and historic glory, and we’ll evoke Perec describing all the things that usually pass unnoticed, for us to reveal fractals of paradise in our homes and outside our window, defined by constraints of a new reality.
Join your tour guides Corina Bardoff and Erik Schurink from your home. This workshop will take place online via Zoom. Please RSVP to receive the Zoom link prior to the event.
The Writhing Society combines a class with a salon. In a two-hour session, you can expect a few minutes of introductions and explanations, an hour plus of silent writing, and a half-hour or so in which we will read our work aloud. Then, if there's a little time left for questions and discussion, we'll do that. If you know nothing about writing with constraints, if you do not think of yourself as knowing much about writing, come anyway. No prior knowledge required. This is nothing like your ordinary writing workshop. We work in a relaxed, supportive, playful atmosphere, and we welcome new members.
What are constraints? Constraints are rules, specific and arbitrary, that drive you to say what you hadn’t expected to say in ways you never would have chosen to say it. Constrained writing always involves a collaboration of languages: yours and someone else’s. It allows you to take directions from something outside yourself. In a world where forms of expression thought to be “free” in fact come ready-made from the discourses of powerful groups, composing with constraints becomes a disciplined practice for escape, from these or from oneself, and a source of fresh ideas.