Monday, June 30, 2008

Fictional Pointillism (Annotation G4-1/Goddard)

In chapter seven of John Gardner's The Art of Fiction, William Gass is specifically cited as masterfully telling a story in snippets or “crots.” Telling a story in this manner may lend itself to a discussion of style rather than plot. The plotting of the story using crots may not have the flow of traditional story telling, but delivers just as much plot information. The definition of fictional pointillism is ever poignant in William Gass's “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country.”
According to Gardner, fictional pointillism is “moving as if at random from one point to another, gradually amassing the elements, literal and symbolic, of a quasi-energeic action,” (Gardner 184). Gass's crots, do seem random as the story begins, paragraph titles such as Weather, My House, or Wires, seem random enough until the titles repeat rhetorically: the same titles with different messages. In two crots under the Politics title Gass gives some back story to the consciousness of the Midwest. Initially, “Like a man grown fat in everything but heart, we overlabor; our outlook never really urban, never rural either, we enlarge and linger at the same time, as Alice both changed and remained in her story,” (Gass 313). Under this idea of politics Gass gives the reader the idea that over time in the Midwest things change and remain the same. Using the metaphor of a man getting fat in everything but heart there is an overall plot of an entire people that suggests growth of little substance.
Examining plot in two other crots furthers this idea that there are infinitely changeless happenings. He gives an account of education in 1833 in which an itinerant preacher paints a picture of the whole populace being less than ignorant. Gass rebukes simply enough: “Things have changed since then, but in none of the respects mentioned,” (Gass 307). Finally, in his last crot of Politics Gass states, “sports, politics and religion are the three passions of the badly educated,” (Gass 320). The understanding here is simple: these are the things most widely talked about in his town of B., Indiana.
It is difficult to disagree with John Gardner on the point of telling a story using Fictional Pointillism, “No rule governs the organization of such a work but that the writer be a prose-poet of genius,” (Gardner 182). Gass has arranged the crots in a methodical order, simply because he has told a story using this style. As each point is made in each crot, the story is clearly articulated.

Gardner, John. The Art of Fiction. Vintage Books: New York, 1983.

Gass, William. "In the Heart of the Heart of the Country." The Granta Book of the American Short Story. Richard Ford, ed. London: Penguin, 1992.