Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Chiaroscurist Online

The cheapskates and web junkies among you might be pleased to know that you can now read my novellette "The Chiaroscurist" online, at, without having to pay a penny. Of course, once you've read it, I'm sure you'll want to BUY THE MAGAZINE from Mr Klima (yes, just click on the link over to the left, yes, over there) to get a copy all for your lonesome. The paper version does have much prettier fonts and section breaks, after all. Trust me. You know you want it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al: What, are you trying to supplant my Physiognomy with the most difficult title for a reader to say? Very much enjoyed the story. And noticed that in the three things I've read of yours -- this, the story on SH, and Vellum, there is a very "architectural" structure to them. On the page, that is. But the images and characters and scenes blend together in the mind and the "parts" play off one another and resonate. It's very effective. Are you aware, when writing, that you put things together this way? Or am I seeing something that's not there?

jeff ford

4:20 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Jeff: LOL. I think Neil goes even further with his Euonymist story in the same issue. you-oh-nim-ist, you-oh-ny-mist... I don't have a scooby how you're meant to say that. :)

Anyhoo... glad ye liked it! And, yes, yer spot on. I'm totally obsessed with this "architectural" idea of writing at the moment. I doubt anybody noticed, but in the SH story each of the titled scenes is exactly a hundred words long; yes, OK, I know that's nuts... but it felt right as a marker of the character's repression.

With Vellum and this one (apart from the obvious panels-of-fresco parallel) I'm kinda trying to give the prose the sort of formality you get in poetry... if that makes sense. The section breaks are the equivalent of line breaks, I guess, with the titles grouping them into the equivalent of "four-line stanzas". Guy Davenport uses this technique in "On Some Lines Of Virgil" and I tried it out on a story a while back, found I really like working with it.

Thinking from the bottom-up, it's a great way to chunk the story into ickle sections that can be polished individually as pure prose, but without getting so caught up in the sentence-level detailing I lose sight of the narrative. Thinking "top-down", it also seems to make the story more "manageable" to have a level of structure somewhere between the paragraph and the scene. From playing around with the technique, I'm actually coming to the conclusion that there is some sort of textual unit which works at that level -- a chunk which is less than a full scene but more than just a paragraph. No idea what you'd call that though.

5:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two different viewpoints on The Chiaroscurist on Shortform, here: .

Also, I haven't read either The Euonymist and The Last Shift yet, but should get to them soon, as I'm now alternating my reading between Electric Velocipede 9 and Nova Scotia.


1:21 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Jetse: Thank you, thank you, thank you! Yes, yes, yes, and yes! You've exactly nailed on the head what I was trying to get across in the story there. Part of it is a meditation on the nature of art, and chiaroscuro as an aesthetic principle, in line with the other review, but the transition from Renaissance thought to Modernity in terms of the "death of God", the significance of Iosef... that's bang-on.

As a wee aside: the other painter I had in mind was that other Michelangelo... de Caravaggio. I've seen at least one critic describe him as the first Modern painter, using whores and tramps to model for the Virgin Mary, Saint Peter, etc.

5:46 pm  

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