My first novel, the thesis I have been working on for the last 3.5 years, is an experimental piece of literature. Yes, yes, I know this sounds arrogant, and perhaps, pretensions--but I was not the one to first say it. It was my thesis adviser who told me, "This is a hybrid novel." A term I didn't know at the time. A hybrid novel is a novel that is made up of many stories, all connected through thematic motifs, characters, places, and one central plot, while also having many miniature plots woven throughout.
The other day I spoke with someone who read it and they mentioned that the "Glue" of the piece--the sections that tie all the stories together and make up the "novel" part of the book, could be cut. He he felt, as a reader, that he could read each story without those sections and not feel cheated. I brought this up with my thesis adviser, which sparked some interesting conversation.
My thesis adviser felt as though the "Glue" sections make the piece more experimental than the "Hybrid" sections. He mentioned, if I was to remove the "Glue," why not make the central story it's own novel, take the rest of the stories and make a short story collection, and bam! two books form one--and not only that, but this gets into the publishableness of conventional form versus experimental structures.
He mentioned that if my publishing career is the most important thing to me, creating two different works--one conventional, chronological, suspenseful novel... and another collection of short stories, makes more sense. The conventionality of said novel would appeal to more people simply because it is more conventional and people will understand it. On the other hand, a structurally experimental novel will appeal to less people, as less people will understand the meta of the work itself--however, the people who DO enjoy it, will enjoy it specifically for the fact that it attempts to move beyond convention, attempts to be new and strange and different.
My favorite hybrid novel is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. It's without a doubt one of the the greatest books of the last twenty years, in my opinion--and I'd actually go back further in time and rank it among books from the last half century.
One character in this book speaks about conventions in an astonishing way: "All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention if only one can first conceive of doing so." Here, Robert Frobisher seems to address the structure of the book he is a part of, and though he is speaking about music at the time, the line above certainly adds an awareness to the book that is both reassuring and clever. I feel as though I've written my first novel with that line in mind. The fact that it is now finished and that line is still relevant makes me think, or hope, that I've written the novel I wanted to write.