A Fractured Portrait of Iris

A Fractured Portrait of Iris
a post-existential fantasy generated through a non-idiomatic improvisational creative process
by Hebeloma Crustuliniforme, Stuart Tallow, Escarlata Piranga Olivacea, Hong Samud & the late Ms. Aun Wee Park
with an introduction by Poppy Hortie
written February 21, 2018-December 27, 2018

A Summary

This book contains a portrait of a woman in twenty-five passages corresponding to five myths, five magical spells, five birds, five excerpts from esoteric texts and five prayers.

A husband desired to compose a paean to his wife, in order to better convey his devotion. However, he found himself inadequate to the task. He therefore joined The International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living. Once he rose to the executive committee of the ICEML, he convinced the five other board members that the creation of such a work on his behalf was a worthwhile exercise in meta-living. They undertook the task, which was characterized by two traits: each wrote in a manner distinct from the others and none of them knew the woman about whom they wrote, save through their exposure to her husband. Through this convoluted mechanism, the literary work, A Fractured Portrait of Iris came into being.

A Fractured Portrait of Iris is a post-existential fantasy generated through a non-idiomatic improvisational creative process. It is a novel written by characters within another novel, Piecemeal: Proceedings of the International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living, which was serially published on a daily basis in 2018. The writing appeared on the same day as it was generated on the website of the Poison Pie Publishing House. This novel is read as written.

A Note Regarding the Authorship of this Work

Readers familiar with oeuvre of the Poison Pie Publishing House will recognize some of the names of the five individuals to whom authorship of this work is attributed as belonging to fictional personages appearing in previous novels from the PPPH. Such a reader may reasonably extrapolate that all five authors are fictional, although Hebeloma Crustuliniforme, who serves as the PPPH Editor-in-Chief may take exception to this suggestion. In any case, readers are due an explanation regarding the attribution of this work to individuals who exist only in fiction.

In order to make our argument, we rely on a straightforward analogy. When the author of a murder mystery describes a murder in her work, most readers would readily agree that it was the villain in the novel who committed the murder, rather than the author. Certainly, to our knowledge, no author of a murder mystery has ever been charged with, much less convicted of, a murder, which took place strictly in a book she wrote. Only a reader with a very liberal interpretation of reality would argue that the author was, by creation of the narrative in which the murder took place, responsible for the commission of murder.

Our argument requires merely that we substitute "writing" for "murder". When the author of a meta-fiction describes the composition of a text by a character within a literary work, who can we say wrote the text, the character or the author? It must be the character, of course. There is no basis for distinguishing between "murder" and "writing", attributing one act to a character but the other to the author. Given this reasoning, the authorship of this present work is accurately attributed to those five individuals who generated it. That some of them exist in our physics-based reality only as ideas in one book or another is irrelevant.

A Note on Context

The staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House would like to make explicitly clear the following two points.

  • A Fractured Portrait of Iris is the fifth book in the Hortie pentalogy, which also includes Physical and electronic versions of the first four books of the Hortie pentalogy remain available for sale from the shop. To be clear, the authorship of the last novel in the pentalogy differs from that of the first four novels.

  • A Fractured Portrait of Iris is extracted in its entirety from various portions of the the second book in the tetralogy collecting daily passages from the years 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020.
    • The first book in this tetralogy is 2017: The Year of the Every-Day Magician.
    • The second book in this tetralogy is Piecemeal: Proceedings of the International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living.
    • Both works are available via free, anonymous access from the Poison Pie Publishing House.
    • The title of the tetralogy is "How I Survived the Presidency of Douchebag J. Troglodyte: A Daily Account".
December 23, 2018


The content provided below is the original description of A Fractured Portrait of Iris as envisioned in 2013. It does not accurately reflect the work as it was realized in 2018.

Author's Foreword:
Imagine a rectangular window, composed of twenty-five panes of glass, arranged in a five by five grid. Behind the window stands a woman peering out. Each pane of glass is different. One is colored red; one is frosted to a point just short of complete opacity. Another pane is filled with old leaded glass that distorts in waves the figure behind it. Yet another contains a defect that gives the effect of a fisheye lens. One pane is cracked. Through this multifaceted window an image of the woman arises. It is not a continuous, integrated image; it is, rather, a fractured portrait revealing aspects of the woman that would not have been possible had the window been whole.
July 31, 2013

On the Organization of this Book
This book contains twenty-five passages corresponding to five subjects, each described in five styles. The first style takes the form of the description of a city. This form can be traced back to "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvino. The second style takes the form of abstract vignettes. This form is inspired by "One Thousand One-Second Stories" by Taruho Inagaki. The third style is that of Biblical parables. This form is modeled after the gospel according to St. Luke. The fourth style is that of a traditional folk tale. This form comes from the public domain of oral tradition, as recorded by the Brothers Grimm and numerous others. The fifth style is what can be considered a traditional narrative in the author's own voice. If one had to cite one or more authors who inspired the author to write as he does, one could identify both Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Albert Camus. Although some readers may determine that the traits of neither master are evident in these narratives, such observations nevertheless fail to diminish their influence on the writing. The twenty-five passages are intentionally not arranged by style or subject. Rather, they are presented in an order that was guided by, first, an attempt to reveal aspects of Iris in a gradual, logically connected manner and, second, when the first method failed me, by chance. The reader is encouraged to read the passages in any arbitrary order.
August 6, 2013

On a Literature of Non-Idiomatic Improvisation
The writing in this book is a carefully executed exercise in non-idiomatic improvisation. There are three characteristics of the literature of non-idiomatic improvisation. First, the writing is non-idiomatic, that is, it falls outside existing genres. Second, the writing occurs through a process of improvisation and presented without more than cursory post-writing editing. Third, the literature of non-idiomatic improvisation defies human memory. If the reader finds themselves unable to recall the details of what they have read at some point after (perhaps immediately after) closing the book, that is, as an inherent characteristic of the work, to be expected. The dates presented in this book indicate the dates of writing, a declaration of provenance typical of live performances. Those readers who are interested in learning more about the literature of non-idiomatic improvisation are encouraged to read the critical essay titled, A Literature of Non-Idiomatic Improvisation by David J. Keffer, available for free download from the Poison Pie Publishing House.
August 6, 2013

On the Hortie Pentalogy
A Fractured Portrait of Iris is the fifth and final entry in The Hortie saga, with the first book describing the family as a whole and the remaining four books focusing on one of the individual members of the family. Each of these books is an exercise in non-idiomatic improvisation. As such, they have as little in common with each other as possible given the fact that they were written by the same author and describe the same family of four. Specifically, the first book, The Horties: An Invisible Novel (written from February, 2009 to December, 2010) describes the mythical origin of the family, during an epoch when they were all invisible. In structure, "The Horties" displays a modest disregard for the grand tradition of the novel.

The second book, The Sutra of Reverse Possession: A Novel of Non-Idiomatic Improvisation (written from December, 2010 to May, 2012) explores the existential fantasies of the father, Poppy Hortie. The book is written in the form of a more-or-less conventional novel.

The third book, The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (Revisited): A Modern Adaptation of the Novella by H.P. Lovecraft (written from June, 2012 to August, 2012) follows the son, Joshua Hortie, as he travels through Lovecraft's dreamlands with his father on a mission to preserve the happiness of their relationship. The structure of the book largely follows that of Lovecraft's original version, with an emphasis on the description of the geography and culture of the dream realm.

The fourth book, The Ruins of My Daughter's Cities: An Imaginary Travelogue (written from September, 2012 to April, 2013) follows the daughter, Sarah Hortie, as she travels with her father on a journey designed to provide a better understanding of each other. This book is inspired by Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities" and, to a lesser extent, "Cosmicomics".

Finally, "A Fractured Portrait of Iris" (written from February, 2013 to ???, 20??) focuses on the mother, Iris Hortie. It is a character sketch integrating a variety of writing styles as described above. In conventional trilogies or series of books of any number, the same writing style is employed through-out all of the books, in order to maintain a sense of continuity. In the grand and non-existent tradition of non-idiomatic improvisation, one avoids the rut of creating one's own idiom (and thus ceasing to work in the non-idiomatic realm) by making each book in the series adhere to a different non-idiomatic style. A non-negligible consequence of this approach is that enjoying (or loathing) any one book in the series provides no guarantee that the reader will enjoy (or loathe) any of the other books in the series. So be it.
August 6, 2013