Death x 3: Frances Bay, Curtis White on lit’s (lack of) future, & “Why Originality Isn’t All That Important”
2. My mentor Curtis White wrote something pretty pessimistic at Lapham’s Quarterly about the future of literature.
3. I wrote something a little more optimistic about why originality isn’t all that important.
My friend Tadd over at Big Other has a post up about why Plato wanted to kick all the poets out of his ideal republic. And I’m no philosopher. But my understanding has long been that Plato’s problem with poets/art (besides the whole mimesis “copy of a copy” thing) is that art is messy, uncontrollable.
Like, consider this:
Someone—some artist somewhere—decided to make this. Is it good? Bad? Funny? Sick? Evil? Juvenile? Calculated? Hip? Clever? Stupid? Immoral? Amoral? Sure—it’s all those things, and more! It supports a variety of readings. In fact, the better an artwork is (I think this is a pretty OK one), the more irreducible it tends to be (at least, according to certain lines of aesthetic reasoning that I think Tadd would agree with).
Good art disrupts the social order. It wakes you up, shocks you, makes you feel alive—it makes you see the world again, differently. Bad art is boring, predictable, prescribed, a weak illustration of what you’ve already been thinking. (That’s my problem with so many depictions of September 11th, Roxanne—they reduce that day into something so digestible, so mundane, it’s as though it never happened.)
Been a little while since we checked in with Stephen Elliott and his merry band.
Rumpus original fiction! “Bobcat,” a short story by Rebecca Lee: “Ray was failing at being a person. He’d been fooled by life. It had triumphed over him. I wanted to call out to him, over his wife’s head, Hey Ray, life has triumphed over you.”
Jeremy Hatch points us toward “The Dark Side of Sustainability,” which is itself commentary on “A Good Without Light,” an essay in the new Tin House by Curtis White which is happily available in full online. Hatch: “White argues that our capitalist industrial technocracy, underpinned by an arrogant scientism, has led us into this mess and is incapable of leading us out; that we must look beyond this economic system, and draw from other “systems of value” (religion, the arts, even social science, and I’d add secular philosophy to his list) to find a way out; and that we can do this without necessarily discarding all of capitalism, industry, technology, or science.”
Ted Wilson reviews the Bible and finds it wanting: “Usually I’m better at finishing books, but the Bible is comically long. Whoever published it used super thin paper, so it’s like twice as long as it looks. (I think there might be some duplicate pages accidentally printed.) And it certainly doesn’t help that it’s written in that old-timey language. Plus, I’ve never liked fantasy and the Bible is full of magic powers and other worlds. That’s just not my thing. It would probably appeal more to Harry Potter fans.” To be perfectly honest, it’s this kind of well-worn “satire” that’s just not my thing. But I assume I’m in the distinct minority on this, so if the preceding entertained you, you might as well click through for a whole lot more of the same.
Max Ross reviews Sleeper’s Wake by Alistair Morgan: “[I]n Sleeper’s Wake, the first novel by the South African writer Alistair Morgan, Wraith’s penis is actually a pretty neat literary device. It provides character depth and motivation, is the jumping off point for learning about Wraith’s past, and is central to every plot twist in the book.”
And Stephen himself has new Notes From Book Tour (#10) : “Then yesterday I went to a free clinic in Alameda for H1N1 vaccine. When I arrived there was a line that stretched for three blocks, thousands of people, almost everyone pushing a stroller or holding a baby against their collarbone. A woman behind me blew her nose and an old man coughed loudly. He looked like he was dying. I thought it would be ironic if I caught flu while waiting for the vaccine.”
Oh and for New Yorkers, the Rumpus is back at the Highline Ballroom on 11/17, with Rick Moody, Starlee Kine, Jonathan Ames, Todd Barry, the Six Word Memoirists, something called Care Bears on Fire, and who knows what else.
November 11th, 2009 / 11:29 am