A Few Thoughts on Surrealist Lit – Part I

Not that I have the reading history to have (humbly stated) developed a rich opinion on the subject of surrealist writing.

However, I’ve perused my fair share of works.  You can find short examples at www.pankmagazine.com and www.wordriot.org.  Basically, the gist of surrealism goes back to the dadaism movement: which is believed to have been a sort of abstract art reaction–a rejection of logical perspective–to the “rationality” mindset that led to WWI (forgive my brevity on the subject: I’m by far no expert).

But I got to driving through North Carolina the other day.  If you’ve ever spent any time there at all, especially near the Raleigh-Durham area, you can see three things: strip malls, vinyl siding, and cedar chips.  And that’s just about it.  It’s as if the entire state were built to look the same throughout–to resemble the monotone repetition of what a drop ceiling looks like.

Over and over and over; the endless rank and file of “Americanization” (I cringe to call it that) has overtaken the great First in Flight State of North Carolina such that it has become an endless, suburban sprawl.

There’s a reason cities like Winston and Salem, and Raleigh and Durham, became Winston-Salem and Raleigh-Durham–the once independent cities just “sprawled” themselves until they were hopelessly interconnected.

Anyway, that kind of thing, I believe, is what led to surrealism.

While in North Carolina, I decided to turn on the radio.  On one station, I heard an endless talk show in which two people discussed the interest prime, real estate, the stock market, and a myriad of other (probably misconstrued) topics of modern economics.  Changing the station, I heard Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.

And that’s when epiphany hit me: when people feel oppressed by the order of something, the only proper response is chaos.  This pattern has repeated itself throughout history: from dadaism to grunge, we have something to learn from the lessons of producing art from the necessary chaos that is connected–like yin and yang–to excessive order.

I hereby predict the downfall of the Great State of North Carolina.

I will continue this discussion further later on in future blogs, but for now I’ve come to discover that the value of surrealist literature lies in the need to destroy preconceived notions of thought, and replace them with ideas that are hard enough to wrap your head around that you have to put reason aside for a moment to (even try) to understand what is being conveyed.

It is then that things start to make sense in a way that they never have before.

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5 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts on Surrealist Lit – Part I

  1. Oh, yes, I remember those from college – dadaism, absurd literature… Never quite fond of them but had to learn them as linguist. It’s yet fantastic how we come to use what we learned in completely new contexts, isn’t it? Anyways, the relationship between psychology, history and language is my view also incontestable, you made a great point here

    • That’s what I’d always thought–absurd, and needlessly narcissistic. Why spend all that time trying to figure out the thoughts of someone who seems to be trying to be purposefully vague? But there are things that can only be communicated properly through the breakdown of the rational. And I think there’s a place for that kind of writing–not that I expect to wallow in it anytime soon, it’s just nice to understand it a little better through the context of driving through suburban hell.

  2. Thoughtful post here. Made me think about the way Nirvana’s aesthetic (expanded from that of the Pixies and others) of the “loud-quiet-loud” contains order with chaos (or visa versa). Those songs perform things becoming ordered and then chaotic again without necessarily performing things one way all the time. I wonder if there’s little pockets within sprawling urban expanses of ordered space giving way to the same contained explosions of entropy?

    • I think I may have been inside one of those little pockets: I was there to visit a friend who was in a lock-down rehab facility. We went to two AA meetings together. I wanted to check out the NA meeting, but we missed it. Talk about your chaos among order.

  3. Pingback: A Few Thoughts on Surrealist Lit-Part II | derekalanwilkinson

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