Filed under: Blogs, Books, Ideas, Literature, Writing | Tags: Identity, Literature, Rant, Writing
Sound Taste’s latest entry, A Universal History of Infamy, sparked the motors this morning. A fantastic post. Not only does she point out a lacuna in American literary criticism (a patent “…lack of imagination”), she ties it to the poor habit that can’t seem to think of Latin American literature as anything other than magical realism.
It is a point well-worth reiterating.
Maybe it’s that Jose Saldivar’s”The Dialectics of Our America” is current subway reading and that precious spare time has become consumed with the meaning of identity in current ponderings, but this question of ‘realness’ as a cipher for a personal identity has been bothersome.
Does the drive for ‘realness’ through appropriating the experience of ‘the other’ (well-intended or not) serve to fostering identity in the face of groundlessness? Another question: what are editors and marketers at the big (sinking) houses (and the critics they give free shit to) thinking when they promote crappy reading? It points to a market-driven logic that’s simply dizzying. Just a few paragraphs in, and we already find ourselves in a thicket of ethical issues regarding identity, commodity, and the production of meaning.
But maybe the dirty secret is that personal dirt sells books. The kookier the habit, the deeper the suffering, the better to move units under the guise of real criticism, the thought seems to go. Why not vindicate one’s moral superiority as a reader-observer in the manner we seem to enjoy watching train wrecks unfold nightly on reality television shows ginned up to produce such marvelous human drama?
Besides, why should I care if Bolaño shoveled smack? This 19th-century way of thinking that writing, even fiction, is a mode of self-disclosure is so bankrupt. It lends itself to the pseudo-profound thoughts that writing and language are simple reproductions or reflections of reality. What a cruel and depressing way to treat the gift of language.