A text object is a piece of fragmentary literature, ideally written in one or two sessions with a minimum of revision. If most text on the Internet is inclined toward specificity and certitude, and its predominant forms are strong opinion and particular fact, a text object favors ambiguity and impermanence. Its phase is the spontaneous murmur, the muttered aside, rather than a declaration of certainty.
A text object is not necessarily fictional, but is usually fictoidal. That is, it requires and thrives on imagination, speculation and discovery. Above all, it aims to be tonic and restorative to one’s sense of possibility, and yet metabolically suited for consumption on the Internet. But that is not to suggest the text object is a new form. The work of authors as diverse as Edouard Levé, Lydia Davis and Yoshida Kenkō embodies the spirit of a text object.
It is ideal that a text object is created under certain time limitations. There are a few reasons for this spirit of enforced improvisation.
One is formal, to categorically separate a text object from fiction and poetry. To be sure, a text object shares some of the same attributes as fiction and poetry; a text object can display elements of a recognizable narrative or adopt a verse form. In some cases, a text object might take the shape of a microfable, a prose sketch, a list or an aphorism. It can be piece of episodic surrealism or an artful misremembrance. It can be a set of cryptic instructions, or a description of a real or imagined phenomenon. Ideally, however, its controlled spontaneity distinguishes it from the highly resolute craft and polish of its cousin forms. In this way, a text object resists what might be called the standardized features of fiction and poetry (for example, characterization, sensory detail or purposeful sentiment) and, in eluding those, aims at an elliptical account of experiences with reality, or even irreality.
The second, related reason for informal time limitations is psychological. Limiting the creation of a text object to one or two sittings is intended to encourage the writer to tap the unconscious mind as the source of the text object. The principle of few revisions, on the other hand, is not intended to incite some wild rawness of expression or give license to undisciplined prose, but rather to groom an awareness of the demands of craft in the very moment of writing.
TXTOBJX is edited by Andrew Kiraly, a writer and editor based in Las Vegas. He is author of the novel Crit, and his short fiction has appeared in numerous journals, anthologies and outlets, including Manic D Press and University of Nevada Press, as well as McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He is the editor of Desert Companion magazine, published by Nevada Public Radio.