Thursday, June 17, 2004

As happens once in a blue moon, I had the kind of dream from which I awaken eager to write. In this case I found myself writing something that looked an awful lot like prose fiction—characters, a setting, the works. I wonder if I should continue with it. I have a theory that poetry is more fun to write than it is to read, whereas fiction is the opposite. Which doesn't mean there isn't pleasure in reading poetry, it's just that I find that pleasure to be most intense when I feel that I am in some way participating in the writing—when the text requires me to bring my full intelligence and experience (literary and otherwise) to it. Likewise, fiction is pleasurable, but if I find myself distracted by the mechanics of it, or if I myself am attempting to manipulate those mechanics, I get incredibly bored very quickly. Moving characters around, constructing backstories for them, exposition, dialogue, pretty much everything that falls under the concept of "craft" I find dull, dull, dull. (I realize here that I'm basically re-articulating Bathes' thesis about "writerly" versus "readerly" texts, the text of pleasure and the text of jouissance. The difference may be that I'm speaking from inside the experience of writing, not speaking as a critic.) The fiction I admire either makes its craft invisible (a classic token of mastery) or leaves as much of it as possible out: this is the territory of lyrical fiction or fiction motorized by a (non-discursively presented) argument rather than a plot. Carole Maso and W.G. Sebald are good examples of the former; Renee Gladman is a good example of the latter. Many if not most fiction writers, I suspect, would argue that making craft invisible is more difficult and thus more worthwhile, but there tend to be a heap of unexamined assumptions under that: principallyy assumptions about the normativity of representation and narrative as telos. I worry about normative representation because of what it leaves out; the telos of narrative is even more questionable because it's basically theological, proceeding along the Rosenzweigian lines of creation, revelation, and redemption. I wholly support and celebrate creation, which affirms life and the earth. I believe in revelation but only as the product of serious thought and critique, as opposed to something proceeding from faith or handed down from a supposedly transcendent source. Redemption is the most problematic (and most popular) element of narrative—it's the happy ending we're all addicted to, even when we know better. The trouble with redemption is, how to separate it from affirmation? Which ties it back into the problem of representation, of reproducing the world as it is. I can't and won't write Molly Bloom's Yes no matter how badly I want to hear it unless I feel it to be true, to be possible—it can't just be a trapdoor out of history. Beckett represents the major alternative, the fiction of negativity and repetition--though I do hear the faintest echo of redemption even in his formulation "I can't go on, I'll go on." So if I do attempt a prose narrative, I have to negotiate these questions. Really it's simply a question of not becoming bored with my own story, the way I never do with a poem. How to write fiction as if it were poetry—not a poetic product, but the poetic process? That's the only way I could find it worthwhile.

No comments:

Popular Posts