Of note from the morning’s reading [“Harry Mathews Reveals the Inside Story to Marcella Durand,” April/May 2004, from What Is Poetry? (Just Kidding, I Know You Know)]:
I’ve always thought of myself as a poet and my ambition in fiction was to write fiction that was organized the way poetry is. Not to write poetic prose or a novel with a poetic texture, but work where fiction doesn’t originate in the illusion that we’re reproducing some other reality.
And later, on “syntax:”
… extending the meaning of the word beyond the relationship between words in a sentence to the relationship between sentences in a paragraph or between paragraphs in a chapter. I claim syntax is where the meaning of a written work essentially lies. In other words, you can write about one thing and mean something else.
Whatever element of non-literary reality the poem began with has been put through a series of distillations to produce an elixir that is in itself delicious and evocative and can suggest many more things than what gave the poem its start….Such poetry aspires to the abstraction that music has.
Mathews quotes from an essay by Robert Louis Stevenson called “A Humble Remonstrance:”
The novel, which is a work of art, exists, not by its resemblances to life, which are forced and material, as a shoe must still consist of leather, but by its immeasurable difference from life, which is designed and significant, and is both the method and the meaning of the work.