Will Alexander visited my Experimental Fiction class at San Francisco State University. From hearing him speak about his novel, Diary As Sin, I realized I had read the novel wrong. How is that possible? I read Diary As Sin silently, only processing the words’ literal meaning. Diary As Sin should be read out loud, slowly, and with inflection. The novel is not about a plot. The novel toys with language as a tool of echolocation for Rosanna who is blind. Alexander’s focus is language as a means to the supraconscious. He described the supraconsciousness as a state above consciousness, the opposite of the subconscious. Rosanna is open to the universe. Her language feels closed to human contact with sentences that refuse closure and paragraphs that span pages.
Will Alexander: The language is meant to lift not restrain the reader.
I approached Diary As Sin as a story, which I have learned is the last way you want to approach experimental work. I felt restricted by the language because I was looking for a story. While there is something happening in the present moment, Rosanna speaking into the tapes, the drama of the story, Rosanna’s abuse, has happened before we enter the novel.
Will Alexander: We’re in arrested development…trained to go from one fixation to another.
While there are characters, the novel is not concerned with character development. From what we have on the page, Rosanna’s family does not change. If anything, the novel is focused on reader development. How can an author convey the power of language for liberation and the repetitive cycle of trauma? Alexander has done this through Rosanna. Rosanna liberates herself through speaking into the tapes every day. Rosanna embodies humanity with how we relive war, slavery, famine because we are trapped in an “us vs them” mentality instead of going beyond the material world.
Since Diary As Sin functions on the sound of language, I was surprised to find out that Alexander’s writing process does not involve sound. He does not speak or record himself. He writes long hand directly from the thoughts in his mind.