I find that when I witness diverse representations of “Reality” on a gallery wall or in a book or a movie or in the spoken word or performance, that the more diverse the representations, the more I feel there is room in the environment for my existence; that not the entire environment is hostile.
To make the private into something public is an action that has terrific repercussions in the pre-invented world. The government has the job of maintaining the day to day illusion of the ONE TRIBE NATION. Each public disclosure of a private reality becomes something of a magnet that can attract others with a similar frame of reference; thus each public disclosure of a fragment of private reality serves as a dismantling tool against the illusion of ONE TRIBE NATION; it lifts the curtains for a brief peek and reveals the possible existence of literally millions of tribes, the term GENERAL PUBLIC disintegrates. If GENERAL PUBLIC disintegrates, what happens next is the possibility of an X-RAY OF CIVILIZATION, an examination of its foundations. To turn our private grief at the loss of friends, family, lovers and strangers into something public would serve as another powerful dismantling tool.
About eight years ago when I was just beginning to write literary, I had no earthly idea how to get started and so I just let myself be guided by something like an ear for the way I thought language sounded, or ought to sound. I judged whatever texts I produced not by what they said, or what manner of rhetorics devices politics thematics emplotments undergirded them but instead by something akin to ‘mood,’ something as intangible as the ear for language that produced it.
In no small part I was merely riding waves of assonances and consonances, introducing rhythms and stark breaks where I felt them appropriate— and I really did feel it in a very in-my-chest kind of way back then. In college, when I was coming across like Marx and Faulkner and Franzen and Kushner and Woolf for the first times, I looked back on that kind of work I did in my teenage years with a deep embarrassment, a chagrin at what appeared suddenly vacuous, narcissistic, ill-considered if considered at all. Most badly of all it was florid, it was drenched in me, it was too mine.
I’m not sure if college me gave younger me a fair shake. He certainly misidentified his newer writing as other-to or beyond that old magic ; this plaintive grasping for the glittering phrase is at the very base of whatever superstructure my literary apparatus has taken on ; it’s inseparable from the emplotments and the thematics, and it cultures all my argumentation. It seems unavoidable that these moods, these dreamlike ‘how strange it makes me feel!’s, will color even the most critical of my critiques, will call for a kind of reader who accepts the gauntlet of having to feel thru to the argument instead of responding to well-wrought argument with feeling.
Which I suppose is not such an extraordinary thing to ask of a reader of literary fiction, to ask of the right reader. —Is, in fact, what such readers of literary fiction are habituated to do when reading. They’re not, you know, reading a polemic or a manifesto. They’re not after diagrams or directives ; I’d like to think they read like I read, often also for mood, for the sense of place and time and company and for, even perhaps, a queer otherworldliness that can be indexed by not quite named.
I suppose what I wanted to say is it’s daunting to think I’ve been writing for so long — which I just realized as I sat down to write this — to think of the boring ‘how far I’ve come’ bromide but mixed with the deep sense of needing to pause to return to the Why of my original desire, that sometimes gleeful sometimes sinister ancient site of mood making : why bother if not for those series of expansive moments where moods bloomed in my chest, where I saw I’d made some string of near-random words force some peculiar psychosomatic response in me, an expansiveness in my ribcage like forgetting how to breathe : like here is the world ! growing !
A pressing question for me right now : how do we get cut off from the life-course, and what kind of attempt to realign with it ought we to try first ?
I don’t think you can last by meeting the contemporary public taste, the taste from the last quarterly report. I don’t think you can last by following demographics and carefully meeting expectations. I don’t know many works of art that last that are condescending. I don’t know many works of art that last that are deliberately stupid. You may be a geek, you may have geek written all over you; you should aim to be one geek they’ll never forget. Don’t aim to be civilized. Don’t hope that straight people will keep you on as some kind of pet. To hell with them; they put you here. You should fully realize what society has made of you and take a terrible revenge. Get weird. Get way weird. Get dangerously weird. Get sophisticatedly, thoroughly weird and don’t do it halfway, put every ounce of horsepower you have behind it. Have the artistic *courage* to recognize your own significance in culture!