If we take the avant garde as primarily a process... rather than a family of finished products, then process is destined to become our means of understanding and appreciating a text. Asking only that they “fail or succeed on their own terms” sounds fair and everything, but if our concern is process, and not product, then I’m worried we see everything that successfully self-directs, that follows itself, as an inherent success.
Surely a dull procedure that creates a dull book is not a successful project on the strength of it being successfully dull, is it? I feel like when a scientist blows up their lab mid-experiment (or, more aptly, their experiment renders zero results), s/he is willing to admit their failure. S/he doesn’t publish their findings or expect the attention of the scientific readership. This is the difference between an experimental scientist and an experimental poet; the latter still publishes their findings, and ships their products into the world with only a “Handle With Care” sticker (or “Difficult Text” Sticker) to limit and protect potential readers.
- Jacob McArthur Mooney, in the comment section of his own blog, the latest home of The Great Avant-Garde Accountability Debate. Read the original post and subsequent comments here.