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Commentary on “Tritogeneia”

D. W. White

Tritogeneia” is an excerpt of my novel in progress, The Seachamber, for which I am currently seeking representation. As the opening of the manuscript, this piece represents nicely, I’d say, my driving force in writing: the authentic and engaging rendering of and exploration into consciousness in fiction. This is an approach, I feel, well-suited to making meaning of modern society and its increasing individualization and stratification. By investigating the mind via advanced literary techniques, fiction can portray the human element present across cultures and societies, and discuss important realities of modern life by shedding light on the universal nature of diverse experiences. It’s also fairly demanding, on the sentence level, both mechanically and technically, which I find to be enjoyable and continually invigorating.

The Seachamber tells the story of a young woman, Elizabeth, across five days in 1994 Santa Monica as she struggles between her personal ambition and the demands of her family. As Tritogeneia showcases, the book employs various interior-focused and classical modernist techniques to foreground her mind and subjective experiences from the third-person, taking much from the stream-of-consciousness literary tradition. This is a blend of older sections of the manuscript — originally written during my MFA — and newer ones, developed during my post-graduate fellowship, with a focus on depicting the tangible, personal experience of memory.

It was important to me to establish at an early point in the book the central concern of memory, and how Elizabeth navigates the collision between her past and her present, which is in many ways the raison d’être of the novel as a whole. As a result, I experimented with methods of bleeding together her personal, subjective memory with traditional narration in the third person, eventually ending on the scene that makes up the second half of Tritogeneia.

This is a method used intermittently thorough the novel, after being introduced in this early chapter.The Seachamber takes as its literary ancestors both the high modernists of the early twentieth century, including James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, as well as contemporary figures such as Lucy Ellmann, Rachel Cusk, and Lucy Corin. As a result, both during my time in graduate school and since, I have devoted much of my focus to studying and applying literary theory and technical-mechanical elements of craft, all aimed at improving my ability to render consciousness in an effective manner. I have found that beyond all the usual frustrations, false starts, and missteps that come with writing a novel-length project, the interior-focused lens of The Seachamber, and the rigorous study and practice that has been a necessary consequence, have made the experience immensely rewarding.

Should I be fortunate enough to make a career of writing, Elizabeth and The Seachamber have given me, in addition to my debut, the foundation of my artistic philosophy and creative approach.

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D. W. White is a graduate of the MFA Creative Writing program at Otis College in Los Angeles and Stony Brook University’s BookEnds Fellowship. He serves as Fiction Editor for West Trade Review, has work appearing in, among others, Chicago Review of Books, The Rupture, Fatal Flaw, and On The Seawall, and is currently seeking representation for his first novel. A Chicago ex-pat, he has lived in Long Beach, California, for seven years, where he frequents the beach to hide from writer’s block.

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