My brother and I were sipping iced coffee the other day. As often happens when sipping iced coffees, the conversation turned to Raymond Queneau. “You know,” I said reprovingly. “The Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau.”
“Oh yeah, The Exercises in Style,” he agreed, nodding as he nursed his drink. “What’s that?”
For one thing, it’s hilarious. It’s a little inspiring. And it’s what prompted this blog.
99 variations on the same short anecdote, each written in its own style. Dude gets on a bus, sees a strange guy, then sees him again later at the train station. The end.
A product of Parisian mid-century literary experimentation — a heady combo of artistic rebelliousness, love of math, and too much Pernod (made up that last part). It’s a damn fine book by a damn fine author. Pretty good writing exercise, too.
Speaking of… why not do it again? The book came out in 1947, so it’s been a while. A guy named Matt Madden emulated the exercises for a series of comics, but let’s stick with writing.
99 new exercises. A new anecdote. A new homage to a giant of French literature. Or just 99 new pieces of cyberflotsam. So, here we go…
(Aside.) I was in Rishikesh when the Kanwar Yatra pilgrimage was happening this year (I was going to Dehradun, stopped for a day-trip). It made it damn hard to get there, actually — thousands of pilgrims choked the highway from Delhi. Some walking, some revelling by the roadside, some packed in vehicles brimming with tall speakers blaring Hindi songs, and all garbed in orange. Pretty cool.
I took a few photos, and got the idea for my anecdote from this one. Speaking of, here it is:
A young boy dressed in orange blows his whistle, deep in thought. His best friend, arm wrapped around him, eyes the crowd in the distance. A nervous grandmother passes by, a secret object hidden beneath the shawl on her head. Meanwhile, behind them a serious man looks knowingly the other way.
That’s the story. Next time, I’ll come with the first style: notes.
Thanks for reading! For more info about this project, click here.