The four dozen or so essays in Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative, edited by Mary Burger, et al. (Coach House Books), contain much loose talk of “limitations” and “delimitations,” of “linearity,” of being “forced to conform”—all of which are transgressions against the virtues of personhood, liberty, integrity, etc., and whose source is (always and again) the “basic English sentence.” As one of the essayists puts it only slightly less murkily than the others: “the linearity of the standard English sentence carries the arc of narrative and tends to overwrite what doesn’t obviously lead somewhere.” The arc of narrative, indeed: just another link in the chains that bind us. “Linearity” has been a favourite bugbear of the literary avant-garde for at least forty years: so much (apparently) remains unsaid, unwritten, unknown, silenced, because of it. This is an old, tired ideology that serves as an alibi for bad writing and an occasion for the deployment of jargon (foreground as a verb, collage as a verb, “narrativity” as a spiritual condition). “We must avoid being framed by languages, or worse yet, being used,” writes another of these essayists, whose utterances recall the banalities that one expects in artists’ statements: “Development in art practice involves change, advance, and recurrence.” Another mentions the “discursive effects of globalism in relation to place/site,” “triumphant globalization” and a “clampdown on narrative structure.” Nowhere in these 300 pages are we given an example of a narrative sentence (that complex musical form that results from combining the five Ws, as we might have learned in grade three: who did what, where, when and why?); neither are we shown a narrative clampdown, or an example of language framing us or worse yet using us, or a standard sentence, a narrative arc or, especially, any example of the dreaded linearity. How then are we to protect ourselves?