For literary modernism to work with the reader, the writing itself needs to be clear, objective, and “pop.”
Ernest Hemingway was a modernist, but the only work in which he played with structure, with montage, was In Our Time. Afterward he wrote everything in strict linear fashion: “straight.”
What’s artistic modernism? Think of Picasso’s “Guernica.” It’s a fragmented view of the world—an attempt to portray the chaos of the actual world.
The most modernistic art form is cinema, because it consists of fragments of reality artfully put together. It’s fitting that motion pictures would be a modernist art—it was created during, sprung from, and reached popularity during the era of modernist artistic ideas—roughly from 1900 to 1930. All its techniques were learned during that period—the most important of which was the theory and practice of montage.
I attempted to use literary montage in my ebook novella, Assassination of X. Not really successfully, because I made the fragments too short; the pace too quick. I overdid it. (As with current fast-paced big budget movies, which are so hyperedited they become meaningless blurs.)
Which simply means more experimentation needs to be done. The writer can’t lose sight of the importance of the continuous narrative line—hooking the reader and keeping the reader hooked.
Are the two elements—montage and narrative line—contradictory?
They aren’t when used together properly in the movies.