So, when Michiko Kakutani (the daughter of the famous mathematician btw) writes an article deploring the tendency of modern culture towards semi-coherent mash-ups of other people’s work, and the article is itself a semi-coherent mash-up of the work of other people (mostly themselves deploring semi-coherent mash-ups), is she being obtuse, quite brilliant in a self-undermining way, or something else entirely? I genuinely can’t figure it out.
This is life lived on high alert.
Nearly all writing, up to the present, has been a search for the “beautiful illusion.”
Nowhere do you get a feeling of a writer deforming his medium in order to say what has never been said before, which is to me the mark of great writing.
Very well. I am not in search of the “beautiful illusion.”
Critics can’t believe that the power to make us feel our one and only life, as very few novelists actually do these days, has come from a memoirist, a nonfiction truth-speaker who has entered our common situation and is telling the story we now want told. But it has.
There’s inevitably something terribly contrived about the standard novel; you can always feel the wheels grinding and going on.
If you write a novel, you sit and weave a little narrative. If you’re a romantic writer, you write novels about men and women falling in love, give a little narrative here and there, etc. And it’s okay, but it’s of no account. Novel qua novel is a form of nostalgia.
There is more to be pondered in the grain and texture of life than traditional fiction allows. The work of essayists is vital precisely because it permits and encourages self-knowledge in a way that is less indirect than fiction, more open and speculative.
One would like to think that the personal essay represents basic research on the self, in ways that are allied with science and philosophy.
Succeeding the Author, the scriptor no longer bears within him passions, humours, feelings, impressions, but rather this immense dictionary from which he draws a writing that can know no halt: lie never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred.
We know now that a text is not a line of words realising a single “theological” meaning (the “message” of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture.
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