Fiction has always shown itself capable of absorbing other texts, other forms of discourse, into its own formal repertoire. Indeed, fiction as a literary mode began in attempts to mimic history (as in Fielding's novels) or as the fictional exchange of letters, as in the epistolary novels of Samuel Richardson. This ability to enlist various kinds of writing not themselves per se "literary" in the creation of literary form is part of what has allowed fiction to retain its vitality; there is no one proper "form" that a novel must take, despite the efforts of editors, creative writing programs, and many book reviewers to force it into a conventional mold combining plot, character, and setting in an identifiable formula.
Matthew Roberson's Impotent (FC2) is an example of this practice of assimilating other texts, although in this case Roberson perhaps takes it a little farther by fashioning what might be called a "formal correlative" whereby his novel's themes are mirrored in the form by which they are presented. Impotent is "about" our increasing dependence on pharmaceutical solutions to our various physical and psychological problems, and to that effect it incorporates the rhetoric to be found in drug labeling, drug advertising, and drug studies as devices in the serial narratives relating its characters' resort to prescription drugs. These devices become, in fact, the primary way we come to know the characters, as the kind of pharmaceutical intervention they require signals to us the sort of lives, usually stressful in ways they seem not to have anticipated, they find themselves maintaining.
One could say that Roberson has found a way to merge form and content, although this ends up, in my view, emphasizing the latter more than might be expected from a novel so unorthodox in its presentation. Impotent has no unifying protagonist but instead introduces a succession of characters related by their use of pharmacological helpers. (The book might plausibly called a collection of stories, but the repetitions of structure and theme encourage a holistic reading rather than one focused on individual episodes.) These characters are never given names other than identifying initials--M for male, S for spouse, C for child, etc.--and this almost inevitably accentuates the behavior in which they are engaged, behavior that both the several narratives and the text as a whole want to call into question. At best such a focus on "saying something" reduces Impotent to a kind of social satire that almost makes the novel's formal experiments seem superfluous.
A work like Impotent does, however, usefully remind us that the novel is an open-ended form limited only by writers' ability to reach outside established forms and claim modes of discourse seemingly beyond the compass of a "literary" treatment as adaptable to their purposes. Roberson's novel held my interest readily enough, and if the execution of its formal strategy ultimately seemed to me somewhat contrived, Impotent did expand my sense of what additional strategies writers of fiction might discover.