After Burroughs and Beckett: opening up experimental fiction beyond old white men

A poet who samples hip-hop and household appliances, a Hansel and Gretel for the #MeToo era ... the avant garde is more diverse and engaged than ever

On a cloudy Saturday in Notre Dame, Indiana, as the new US supreme court justice is being sworn in, consecrated with arcane ritual language, I am at the &Now festival of experimental writing. Started 15 years ago by cult novelist Steve Tomasula, the event has become perhaps the anglosphere’s major, if not only, celebration of the literary avant garde. Over the course of a weekend in &Now’s literary funhouse, the virus of language is purposefully mutated into deviant strains, from narratives told as a series of Facebook pages and art exhibitions imagined as novels, to music videos reconstituted as socio-cultural commentaries. There is a premium on innovation that makes this event feel closer to a festival of the visual arts than one of ...