John Gardner Zen Writing Exercises

What might some of John Gardner’s Art of Fiction exercises looked like if he had a pathological obsession for Zen koans and parlour games?

4a. Describe a landscape as seen by an old woman whose disgusting and detestable old husband has just died. Do not mention the husband or death. Also, do not mention the woman.
4b. Describe a lake as seen by a young man who has committed a murder. Don’t mention the murder or the young man or the lake.
4c. Describe a landscape as seen by a bird. Only use prepositions and conjunctions.
4d. Describe a building as seen by a man whose son has died in a war. Don’t mention the son, death, war, the man, or the time of day. When describing the building, you may only mention the color of the building, what animal it is like, and whether it is larger or smaller than a bread basket.

3. Write three effective short sentences: each less than two words and involving a different emotion. Do not mention the emotion.

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