Why ‘Exquisite Corpse’?

Posted: August 8, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve long envied the cool, enigmatic names of some of my writer friends’ blogs and websites.  DCP team mate Adrian Chamberlin has Archives of Pain.  Fellow Melbournian Kirstyn McDermott’s blog is called ‘even blackbirds must die’ (she even types it in hip lower case).  Other writer group friends, Annette Bowman and Colum Paget, have ‘The Stars Are Not Made of Fire’ and ‘The Singularity Sucks’ respectively.  Ex-pat Kiwi Paul Haines’s website is named ‘Hapax Legomena’, a title so cool, it could have been written by Wallace Stevens (in other words, I don’t have the faintest idea what it means).

And what did I have?  ‘Tracie McBride’.  Bor-ing.

I recently attended a Surrealism art exhibition in the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane.  And there, emblazoned on the gallery wall, was the perfect phrase for the writer of dark speculative fiction – Exquisite Corpse.

‘Exquisite Corpse’ is the name given to the game, similar to ‘Consequences’ that was played by Surrealists in the early twentieth century, in which a player would write a phrase on a piece of paper, fold it over so the writing was concealed, and pass it to the next person for their contribution.  The name arose from a sentence that emerged the first time the Surrealists played the game – “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau.”  Translated into English, it reads “The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine”.

Home from my holiday in Queensland, I promptly changed the name of my blog to ‘Exquisite Corpse’, thus making myself do a double take every time I opened WordPress.  ‘Exquisite Corpse?  What the…oh, that’s right, I changed it” (And did any of you lot even notice?  I thought not…).

Doing a quick Google search of the phrase as research for my blog post made my heart sink, in much the same way it does whenever someone in one of my crit groups says, “Your story reminded me of that much more famous and better written one by…”.  It seems that every man, his dog, and his gothic artist neighbour has a website or blog called ‘Exquisite Corpse’.  There are even two songs (at least) of the same name, one by Hedwig and the Angry Inch (a coolly obscure name in itself) and one by Bauhaus. 

Browsing through some of the other sites, I begin to discover some minor coincidences.  On DeviantArt there is a surreal collaborative club of artists that call themselves ‘Exquisite Corpse’.  Collaborative group of artists…sounds a little like Dark Continents Publishing.  Photographer Jon Rendell (no prizes for guessing the name of his website) lives in Melbourne, just like me.  Then there is a bigger coincidence, one that I find for some unfathomable reason to be a little creepy; there is an online literary journal called ‘Exquisite Corpse’, which is headed up like a mock newspaper title, and the date on the ‘issue’ is January 11 – my birthday.

Oh, well.  Don’t know what I was thinking trying to be one of the cool kids, anyway.  Perhaps I should be content to sacrifice a little originality in return for increased publicity.  You never know who might stumble across my blog whilst searching for someone else’s, much like the undoubtedly disappointed person who found me by searching for “how to get bat dung off a boat canopy”.  Ooh, perhaps I should rename my blog “Exquisite Corpse Free Sex Harry Potter Recession”.

Or not…

  1. Paul Haines says:

    Shriekback also have a song called “Exquisite Corpse”. And also one called “Hapax Legomena”. Oh my terrible stolen secrets…

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