In October 1974 novelist, filmmaker and Oulipoist Georges Perec, spent 3 days in the cafes of Saint-Sulpice documenting the humdrum, the every day, and the “infraordinary” details of Paris life into the book, An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris.
40 years later writer Michael Crowe creates An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in GTA Online which, exactly as the title suggests, re-enacts* Perec’s observational exercises in the virtual world of Grand Theft Auto Online.
Though set in vastly different worlds, both books beautifully capture the “life” of their places. The micro and macro details form wavelike rhythms. Details are re-observed and re-assessed and the ghosts of narratives form in the periphery of the reader’s mind and are lost. The reader is living both with Perec and Crowe as they observe.
Which kind of place would you exhaust?
A favourite park or train station?
A video game or social media feed?
A room in your house?
A restaurant menu or letter from your bank?
HOW TO EXHAUST A PLACE
- Choose a place to Exhaust.
- Decide how long you are going to be in that space. 20 minutes. An hour. A weekend.
- Go to the place with your writing tools. Notepad, journal, laptop, etc…
- Start recording what you observe. What you see, hear, smell, feel. Don’t go into the exercises feeling your job is to document everything about the place. Your job is to document what you observe. Which details call out for your attention? What do you notice? This is an exercise about paying attention to yourself as much as it’s about paying attention to a place.
- Don’t push yourself to be profound and poetic. That will come. It’s more important to get the details down as you see it, the poetic stuff will creep in.
- Feel free repeat an observation.
- Feel free to comment on an observation.
- Have fun.
*It is worth noting that Crowe even goes through the trouble of creating an avatar as that resembles George Perec.