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MIT blogger CJ Q. '23

Exercises in Style by CJ Q. '23

with apologies to queneau

It’s been—checks watch—two weeks since I last posted, which is a week’s gap longer than usual. Oops!

As part of 21W.765 Interactive Narrative, we were assigned to read Raymond Queneau’s classic Exercises in Style. In it are 99 retellings of the same story, each written in a different style, ranging from “Hesitation” to “Tactile” to “Spoonerisms”. We discussed, in class, our favorite and least favorite styles. Then we were assigned to narrate a short story of our own, in both our favorite and least favorite styles.

I decided to narrate a scene from last Saturday night. I had a lot of fun with this exercise and decided to write not just twice, but ten times: my top five and my bottom five. Can you guess which is which?


On a certain date, I carried a crate with a lot of weight, and on a cart it did skate. It was late, three hours past eight, and it began to precipitate. With straight gait, I accelerate to an undergraduate congregate. Through an ornate gate, the cart I did elevate and escalate. The journey to migrate this crate did culminate, to where it did originate, the office appropriate for the guild assassinate.

Aftrate a short wait, I escate the officiate, and entrate a room alternate. I notate three friendates, talkate about a partate, and ate some popcornate from a mate.


In a dim moonless night, a fish made its way upstream, as it nursed a school of smaller fish. They swam, avoiding predators and nets, intent on approaching a desination. They swam past a rock and some grass, before diving into a deep trench. The bigger fish greeted the family of the school of smaller fish, and left the smaller fish before swimming away.

Later, I saw the bigger fish looking at the surface of the ocean, as stray bait floated down from the sky. The fish consumed the bait and left.


I transported some objects upward, and returned them to where I took them from. Later, I meet some friends and eat food.


Tonight you will find yourself pushing a grocery cart filled with Nerf guns down the path known as the Outfinite. Then it will become windier, and you’ll push the cart faster to compensate. On your way to your destination you will pass by many people outside, where on a typical night there would be none. You will then push the cart into an elevator, and return the Nerf guns to the office of the Assassins Guild.

A little later, you will exit this office. You will then enter another office, and you will see three of your friends, who were part of the crowd of people you saw on your way. Two friends will leave, and the third will offer you food; you must accept it.


I was offered popcorn by a friend, and the two of us were left in the ESP office after two others left. I had just exited the Assassins Guild office, where I had dropped off some Nerf guns. These were carried into the office on a grocery cart, that I had taken up the Student Center elevator. On my way to the Student Center, I saw several people, and before that I was pushing the cart faster, because the wind was blowing so hard. This happened at the Outfinite, at eleven in the evening.

Modern style

I was carrying the cart one night it so happened that I became conscious of the items in the cart which you might say was a premonition or a prophecy of what is to come to me as it just so happens I was and the in the items in my cart were these plastic guns that I or perhaps something else revealed something larger about me I don’t know but I thought you would know. Certainly while the cart was in motion the breeze began to blow and this gathering of people, lots of people you see, I saw them walking around and full of energy I could feel in the air but the gathering was not my cup of tea. What this gathering was for I do not know, well perhaps this is a fib as I do know it was related to a larger event, but I do not know for certain whether this was related to the event or merely incident to it, and I, well, fair enough, I mean to say, the people were probably gathering for some event, really, I couldn’t care less about it. I wanted to get the cart up into the office, and I reckoned it’d be best to avoid everything distracting me from it. I was old now, and that’s what old people do, you know, they’re just tired of everything, right?

But the thing is that moments later I saw several people, them, and they were from the gathering, and talking about it. And as some people left and some of us were left behind I became quite curious about the scent of something I caught in the air and soon found the source as it was given to me.


It was midday, clear, sunny, and hot. A car bereft of passengers drives itself, slowly, across the highway. The car did not contain any boxes, and these non-existent boxes did not contain toys of any sort. The car passes by an empty city. It then descends down a poorly-maintained ramp. At the bottom of the ramp, I put some items into the car, and then drive it even further down the ramp.

Immediately before that, I ran out of an office and three people saw me. I tried explaining what was happening inside, which was to say, nothing. More people arrived, and I gave one person some popcorn.

Parts of Speech

Articles: the, a.

Substantives: Outfinite, eleven, evening, cart, Nerf, gun, wind, person, tent, party, Student Center, elevator, Assassins Guild, office, ESP, door, friend, popcorn.

Adjectives: full, several, next, three, downstairs, two, one, some.

Verbs: to be, to roll, to blow, to start, to push, to pass, to gather, to seem, to enter, to go, to return, to come, to leave, to enter, to talk, to happen, to stay, to offer, to eat.

Pronouns: I, what, where, they, that, my, there, who, we, them, me, which.

Adverbs: hard, faster, after, behind.

Prepositions: at, in, of, by, outside, underneath, up, with, from, about.

Conjunctions: so, and.

You Know

Well, you know, it was night, and I was coming from a, you know, a game. So, you know, I was pushing along this cart, you know, full of, that thing from the game, you know. I mean, it’s sort of, you know, the thing? And then, you know, there were people doing that, you know, that thing outside. And, you know, what happened next, I went up to the, yes, you know, the office, and returned the… things, you know.

Well, you know, later on, I left the thing, you know, and went to the other office. You know, that other office! And I saw three, you know, friends, right? And they came from, you know, the thing. Then we uh, you know, talked about a, the party. Someone, you know, that person, then gave me some thing. You know.


How can one describe the impression created by the flashy clattering of a cart’s wheels against patterned pavement animatedly jostling its plastic contents up and down in a discordant symphony? How can one express the impression made by the night fall breeze passing through a mesh of metal holes speedily whistling faster and faster as they move in opposite directions? How can one convey the impression given by the sight of throngs of people like particles smoothly bouncing in Brownian motion gathered to loudly celebrate? How can one translate the impression provoked by the jerky flight of a plastic box in a metal box in a metal box in a concrete box in an act of container recursion?

Finally, how can one formulate the impression caused by the appearence of three partygoers inside an office room later one of whom carries a small bag of garlicky popcorn?