The Essence of a Scary Story by Three-Year Old Kevin Lee Schmidt

Kevin White EyedOnce upon a time, there was a group of kids . . .

and they DIED!

(Read what Kevin’s story means in terms of the structure of a story, which is something that we must learn as children, in my book Narrative Madness,  available at or on Amazon.)

The Danger of Meta: Centre George Pompidou and David Foster Wallace’s “Octet”

Centre Georges Pompidou demonstrates the danger of meta:


(Image from

The Parisian art museum built in 1977 is meta-architecture because it exposes elements of a building that are usually hidden, placing them on the exterior. It teaches us to see a building as a material object made up of structure, support, pipes, wires. In the picture below some pipes are painted different colors, suggesting different systems, thus “exposing the device,” showing us how the building works. Very interesting, no doubt. So what’s the problem?
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The Expository Curse in Agnes the Barbarian (by Jason Harding)

The Thunderbird Theatre Company has been producing wacky original comedies in San Francisco for 13 years, many with meta elements. For example in The Gloved Fist of Satan, a character starts the show by treating the audience as house guests, serving them cookies and forcing them to watch a slideshow. In Los 7 Magnificos, the character El Bandito, dressed like Pancho Villa, sits in the audience and heckles the performers: “Thees ees sooo stupid!” (I played a bad ass reverend in that play, head of the evil Quakers.) In Las Vega-nauts, Stan Schuster not only narrated but drunkenly engaged the audience. (I was a member of the Swiss Mafia.) Pride and Succubus also had a Jane Austin character, who not only narrated but then intervened with the plot ultimately to become the villain.

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inside gertrude stein: A Meta-Prose Poem by Lynn Emanuel

inside gertrude stein

Right now as I am talking to you and as you are being talked to, without letup, it is becoming clear that gertrude stein has hijacked me and that this feeling that you are having now as you read this, that this is what it feels like to be inside gertrude stein. This is what it feels like to be a huge typewriter in a dress. Yes, I feel we have gotten inside gertrude stein, and of course it is dark inside the enormous gertrude, it is like being locked up in a refrigerator lit only by a smiling rind of cheese. Being inside gertrude is like being inside a monument made of a cloud which is always moving across the sky which is also moving. Gertrude is a huge galleon of cloud anchored to the ground by one small tether, yes, I see it down there, do you see that tiny snail glued to the tackboard of the landscape? That is alice . . .

Because someone must be gertrude stein, someone must save us from the literalists and realists, and narratives of the beginning and end, someone must be a river that can type. And why not I?

(Quoted in David Bartholomae’s Writing in the Margins (Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2005).

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A Not Not-True Introduction to Donald Barthelme and “The School”

Sixty StoriesThis introduction to Donald Barthelme’s short story “The School” is non-fiction. Non-fiction means “not fiction.” Fiction, as you have learned, is a story that is “not true.” In other words non-fiction, on a linguistic level, is “not not-true.” This means, logically, when you cancel out the negatives, that the non-fictional information I am about to give you, is — I am very pleased to say — true.

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Who is the Monster at the End of The Book? It’s Not Grover, Dear Reader.

On the cover of The Monster at the End of This Book Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover, Grover breaks the narrative fourth wall and smiles and waves at the readers, a bit shyly, saying “Hello, everybodeee!” No mistaking that voice! Then the title page, which readers always turn past quickly, like Grover, who is already peeling back one corner of the illustrated page (drawn on the real paper), saying, “This is a very dull page. What is on the next page?”

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Zemblan Pizza Rezembles Nabokov

This Zemblan pizza rezembles pizza, yet the meaty balls are not meaty sausage but date rolls, the peppers are dried mango, the parsley, green apple skin! The crust is a pancake, the sauce raspberry-strawberry and the cheese — oh, the cheese! — Moscarpone-frosting.

The pizzza is a vegetarian dessert, created by Erica Eller and Kayvon Ghashghai for the metaclass, in honor of vegetarian Dr. Charles Kinbote, who edited the poem “Pale Fire.” In the preface and commentary, Kinbote reveals more about himself, an eccentric, homosexual professor, and more about the colorful, gay king of Zembla, Charles the Beloved, than the writer of the poem, American writer John Francis Shade, whom Kinbote stalks and spies on. Kinbote hopes to impregnate Shade with his own history, which he hopes Shade will turn into great poetry.

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The Limits of Language: Seuss Beyond Zebra

In On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss, Conrad Cornelius o’Donald o’Dell, who is just learning to spell, writes out the alphabet on a chalkboard and says, “The A is for Ape. And the B is for Bear. / The C is for Camel. The H is for Hare.” He knows all the letters through to Z for Zebra. “So now I know everything anyone knows / From beginning to end. From the start to the close. Because Z is as far as the alphabet goes.” In other words, the alphabet allows him to learn about the known animals of the world, the implication being that without the alphabet he may never have known about hares or zebras.

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A Simple Metapoem for an Oxymoron: You

Paradoxes and Oxymorons

by John Ashbery

This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at it talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don’t have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.
What’s a plain level? It is that and other things,
Bringing a system of them into play. Play?
Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be

A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
As in the division of grace these long August days
Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know
It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.

It has been played once more. I think you exist only
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren’t there
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem.
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.

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