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God is Dead

by Upstate NY Tue Aug 8th, 2006 at 08:43:49 PM EST

In the spirit of poemless's diary on the efficacy of religion in contemporary culture, I wanted to offer a viewpoint on this issue from that of literature in the US and Europe. Literature? Well, let me explain, and this will be a rambling diary which I will try to keep as short as possible.

My initial response is that there's nothing wrong with religion per se, but instead it's our certitude in the knowledge produced by religion that is a problem. Thus, if religions and religious beliefs didn't exist, we would very likely have groups of people who gravitated toward "certified" knowledge regardless. I'm talking about dogmas of all kinds, ideologies, cold hard facts, man. I'm talking about politicians, gurus, hell even historians.

I'll try to bring together a lot of my reading over the last few months into this one diary to explain a cultural difference regarding how Americans deal with information (or facts) in comparison to others, notably Europeans.

Last summer, the novelists VS Naipaul and Ian McEwan were quoted in the NY Times as saying that fiction is dead, that they no longer read fiction, that they always turn to non-fiction first because in this day and age--post 9/11, Iraqi War--what we need most is to come to grips with facts, with the truth, we need knowledge, and delving into unreal fictional realms is just a waste of time. All counterarguments to these statements in letters-to-the-editor (from some well known American literary types) took on the Naipaul/McEwan argument head-on. In other words, they tried to preserve a space for fiction even in these harrowing times. Me, my response was to take VSN/IM at face value, and ask, "OK, just what KIND of information are you interested in? In other words, what do you want to know? And why?"

The basic idea behind the recent assaults on fiction and poetry in America (more on this below) is that, in terms of facts and information, fiction and poetry are valueless. They provide very little of either. Clearly, even famous novelists like VSN/IE were looking for a little certitude, knowledge of the so-called world. So, I asked myself, is there a kind of knowledge that fiction can be responsible for? What kind of information can fiction provide us? Does it fill the gaps that other disciplines can't? Surely, I've never read a psychoanalysis of Richard Nixon as I found in Robert Coover's "A Public Burning," or a look into Hitler's young adulthood as I discovered in Beryl Bainbridge's "Young Adolf." This was a form of knowledge, wasn't it?

Mostly I asked myself, what is this so-called category "non-fiction" which has usurped the province of fiction in America?

JM Coetzee was in my town recently and he offered an anecdote about the American literary scene which was very telling. He informed the audience (well, his intention wasn't to inform, he was just talking) that "non-fiction" is a very unnatural and strange genre indeed. Coetzee said that the trilogy that was being marketed in the US as his autobiography was being sold elsewhere around the world as his novels. Fictions, in other words, or autofictions as some in the literary world have come to know them. His explanation for this was simple. The non-fiction category as a genre doesn't exist anywhere else.

There's a very good reason for this. The category of "non-fiction" writing is an academic category born in the MFA creative writing programs in American universities. When fiction writers and poets moved into the academy after the GI Bill, they were immediately accosted with the demand that they had to have at least one "toe" in the real world. The Harvard critic, Roman Jakobson, upon hearing that Harvard was hiring a writer to teach writing, remarked, "What's next? Are we going to hire elephants to run the zoo?" Writers quickly discovered that the newborn genre "non-fiction" would satisfy the academic powers that be. In fact, the very designation derives from Truman Capote's pronouncement that "In Cold Blood," his recounting of the horrific slaughter of a Kansas family by two drifters, was a Non-Fiction Novel. The writing programs in the US took this idea and ran with it. 40 years later, the publishing industry in the US is dominated by so-called non-fiction works. The term has become naturalized in the US. No one remembers the time before non-fiction, no one remembers its roots. Non-fiction is a kind of new religion here. No one even questions its very awkward designation. Non-what? Just come out with it man, what is your genre all about? Don't pussyfoot around by telling me what you are NOT. Tell me who you are. You see, behind this Non, there's a very subtle deceit which has come to dominate American culture, and that deceit is that someone has a certitude of knowledge which--while it can't be called the "truth,"--we can just the same pretend that it's very close to the God-awful truth, simply because--at the very least--it's NOT a lie. That's what this category of non-fiction reading has become in the US. A sly way of saying, this is not a lie. Initially, it was only supposed to designate a form of writing that presented real events through the use of literary writing techniques which were until then limited to the genre of fiction. If you look at American writing pre-Capote and post-Capote, there's a sea change in style. There is no history, essay, or news reporting, that incorporated fictional techniques the way that Capote's form of non-fiction did. Here and there we might find such narrative techniques being used in literatures around the world, but elsewhere such writing is never categorized as "history" or "news." Genet's "Miracle of the Rose" or Von Rezzori's "Memoirs of an Anti-Semite" or even Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" are treated as works of literature. Not "real events." This, in a nutshell, is the categorical mistake the publishing world is making in the US.

This must be significant, no? That Coetzee is publishing his trilogy in Europe as a novelist but in the US he's writing about himself, supposedly? Two continents of people are reading the same text differently, apparently, or so I'm told by the marketing/publishing industries on either continent. I imagine this is true of a lot of books. For instance, an American who reads Peter Handke's "A Sorrow Beyond Drerams" (a fiction about Handke's mother's real-life suicide) may have a very different understanding from it than a reader who is not repeatedly asking the question--in knee-jerk fashion as an American probably would--"did this really happen?" Instead, the latter reader would probably be more interested in the question, "how does a sensitive writer like Handke perceive his mother's suicide?" Another example: in the late 1940s, a small novel was published in Italy titled "Kaputt." It was written by Curzio Malaparte, pseudonym of one Kurt Erich Suckert, the Italian Ambassador to Croatia during the Ustashe period. In the novel, several gruesome events were described, events which would resound in the Balkans as historical facts for the next 50 years. Suckert used the real names of leaders and generals he encountered in Croatia, and thus, the events in this novel--as it is labeled--bore the weight of a form of evidence to atrocity. Clearly, given the experiences of Yugoslavians under the Nazis, no one was really in a mood to ask about genre differences, whether the events described were fictional or not. Instead, "Kaputt" became a form of testimony to all the brutalities that had actually occurred, a general record of the era, rather than a specific record of specific events.

Again, compare this manner of reading to recent scandals and controversies in the USA. The Oprah-Frey scandal in which an autobiographer on the Oprah show, James Frey (author/victim of "A Million Tiny Pieces") was found to have lied about a great many events in his book. JT Ellroy, the author of an autobiography of his life as an abused young boy, was discovered to be a female author in her 60s. Oprah's initial response to the scandal, "So what, it's still a great story," was in my opinion, the proper one, even if I disagree with her reading tastes. She quickly backtracked, however, as the scandal caught fire. America would have none of it. You do not LIE to Americans when you are telling your personal story, apparently. You see, despite our cognitive dissonance when it comes to WMDs, we don't want evidence that we are being lied to exposed so baldly. At least with WMD, there's still a chance Saddam hid them somewhere near the earth's core. But with Frey, he lied to us. So, we have incident after incident in which Americans are hung up on the question, "Is it real?" "Is it real?" Is it real?" That's all they care about. That events happen is an uncontested fact. But the retelling of these events proves problematic again and again, and the constant refrain of "Is it real?" quickly becomes an obstruction to our critical capabilities, one that prevents us from examining the literary work for its information content. Is this logical? Does it educate? What are the counterarguments to this theory? No, I'm an American, I can't ask these uestions until I get to the bottom of the one and only God: "is it real?" I'm guessing that Naipaul and McEwan can't get over that question. "Is it real?" I argue that this quest for certitude prevents us from examining information for what is. It prevents us from putting the information before us to the test of logic and functionality, and it exposes us to certain propagandistic beliefs which become dogma all too quickly.

The NYTimes Sunday Book Review recently announced that it will no longer review works of literary fiction. Instead, the new editor has been tasked with reviewing works of "non-fiction" only. Autobiography, Biography, History, News Reporting, etc. The new editor, in fact, was asked what he had against fiction. His reply, "Fiction is shit." The new editor is Steven Erlanger.  Erlanger, a veteran reporter in the Balkans during the 90s (I remember, as someone who read daily about Balkan events, Erlanger's reports as being excellently balanced, with plenty of anecdotes, he had a real energy toward getting the full story, he and Kinzer, both were really good reporters).  Obviously, his statement opened up a firestorm since the NYT is the biggest paper for fiction reviewing in the USA. Many writers bombarded his rather sensational statement without realizing the game was over. When the editor says, "You are Shit," that pretty much says it all, no? Me, I was happy as hell because the New York Times was suddenly putting an emphasis on reporting, on getting to know more about other countries, in the culling of balanced information, and it was my hope that this trend begun by the Arts Editor would quickly catch fire to the rest of the paper. The hope was that ethics in journalism would return to the home of Judy Miller, David Brooks, Jason Blair, and the like. Maybe the NYT would become the paper of record again, instead of behaving like a propaganda organ. You see what I'm getting at? The lowest level of reportage seems to be generalizing and propaganda. If this important newspaper wants to improve its reporting by getting rid of the review of a literary genre I love, then I'm all for it. Improve thyself.

But the fact is, Erlanger's insistence that the non-fictive is more valued than the fictive can only lead to trouble. It propagates the same categorical mistake which inevitably makes American readers highly susceptible to propaganda. It emphasizes the "this happened" over the specific significance of the actual event itself, the power of an event to chasten us and realize our place in the world. As the novelist William Gass puts it, "It's not good enough for to write about things because they actually happend. People stand in lines at the bank and they cut cabbage. I don't want to read about it. It happened? So what?" I have to clarify: I'm not at all arguing against news reporting, histories, etc., I'm merely criticizing the mania for them. The mania for certified knowledge, the mania for the real.

Most of all, I'm concerned that the USA is trashing a genre of writing which I find immensely valuable for building critical thinking skills. I'm worried that we're replacing it with a genre that will easily become a vessel for propaganda, and the public will have disarmed itself of critical capabilities to know the difference. Genres are good things, I love them. They tell me how to read, they tell me which reading skills I need to bring to any particular text, they save me time even when I'm reading the European Tribune! But when genres become dictatorial habits, the reader is in trouble. Why must we make a tyranny of our knowledge? Why must the category always wag the tail of the specific? God is not dead. He's the lazy being in my head that says, you don't have to read that shit. Read this instead!

My thoughts.

  1. Fiction, the literary genre, is suffering in America because it is an art and we do not support the arts and almost all contemporary American fiction is shit.  It really is.  It is crap.  This is not the case elsewhere.  But fiction writing requires a great deal of discipline and talent.  We encourage niether.  I don't think you'll see many people calling Dickens or Shakespeare shit.  It's contemporary American fiction that sucks.

  2. There is also an aesthetic trend toward blurring the line between fact and fiction.  This got a head start abroad, and some cultures still don't put too much value on the distinction.  While Capote certainly had much to do with the blurring of genres, I'd also credit the gonzo journalism and beat movements.  Though even Mark Twain and Dostoyevsky blurred the line back in the day...  But America has always championed black & white clear cut genres.  It is either fact or a lie.  Well, it is just now dawning on people that reality is full of white lies and art is full of incidental truths and pushing the envelope, a la Frey, is the "it" thing to do.  It is a marketing tool.  This too shall pass.  

  3. You'll find that back in the day when I was asking for someone to recommend a book to help me understand our current crisis, I requested philosphy and literature.  As a film student, with a concentration in Russian at that, I've never been too gung ho on fact v fiction in the lit genres, as it is abundantly clear that all creative self expression (as writing always is) is inherently subjective and promotes an agenda, good or bad.  So the idea that we can only learn from non fiction is bunk as even non fiction is not entirely objective, in the way that say, double blind scientific experimentation might be.

  4. And that's the crux of the matter.  I won't sit here and tell you we have nothing to learn from religion, that some religious teachings do not contain some truths, or perhaps keen insights is a better phrase, into the human condition.  Not at all.  Nor should we ignore religion.  Just because something is harmfull doesn't make it unworthy of investigation or unable to teach us about ourselves.  

I think all genres are equally valid, fiction or non-fiction.  Both have their merits.  Both can be badly written.  The thing is, when something claiming to be fiction is full of lies, its just badly written.  When something claiming to be non-fiction is full of lies, it is deceitful.  Whether it is written by Ann Coulter or God Almighty.  Also, if your little book is so full of truths, they should stand on their own even if I read every other book in the Universe and judge them all by the same standards I judge yours.  People who live according to one book only are doing much worse than favoring fiction over fact.  They are denying the rest of us the possibility of living with well informed citizens.

And like I said, I'm not aware of any genocides done in the name of aesthetic tastes...

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Tue Aug 8th, 2006 at 09:51:12 PM EST
Genocides by aesthetes? Hmmm, well, Goebbels was a Lit. major. Of course, the one thing that redeemed him is that he saved Hermann Broch at James Joyce's request.

I checked to see if some of the best books of fiction in the last 2 years had been reviewed in the NYT. 80% of them have. I read a lot of fiction, and I do believe American fiction is alive and well. Currently I'm reading recent books by Percival Everett and Shelley Jackson, two excellent writers who haven't been reviewed by the NYT.

by Upstate NY on Tue Aug 8th, 2006 at 10:14:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm, well, Goebbels was a Lit. major.

I really don't think the Jews' taste in fiction was the reasoning for the Holocaust.  

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Tue Aug 8th, 2006 at 10:32:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think you'll see many people calling Dickens [...] shit.

waves hand.

by MarekNYC on Tue Aug 8th, 2006 at 10:23:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]

You said that out loud.

"No I didn't, raise middle finger."
-Bender, Futurama: "That's Lobstertainment"

by Number 6 on Thu Aug 10th, 2006 at 05:39:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
we do not support the arts

Please qualify this bold claim.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 04:41:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you really think this country does an adequate job of supporting the arts?

I don't.  I believe it is very much the result of our version of hyper-capitalism, which places value on endeavors that make money.  I wrote a thesis on this somewhere ... dissapeared in to the college paper black hole.  Anyway.   Of course this is not to say that there is no art here.  There is a lot of it.  

Generations ago you could make a living in this country being an artist. You used to be able to live on the Cape in a shack and write for a year, now only millionaires can afford a shack on th Cape.  And if you do make it, there is insane pressure from publishing companies to pump out material.  It's all about the bottom line.  

I managed a big box book store during the era when they all moved into your towns and ran the little independent ones out of business.  I can tell you, promise you, that the people running those ships, literature was the last thing on their minds.  It was "product."  Could be a latte, a plastic bookmark, a DVD, a book, a mug, a toy, they didn't care what it was.  So long as it sold.  Didn't sell, it was taken off the shelves.  When I began, everyone I worked with held lit or language or music or history or art degrees and we were paid a living wage.  Wages were slashed to where you couldn't pay off a student loan and work there at the same time.  People hired to help university professors and students find the right philosphy and travel books were shoved behind cash registers and told to put pizzas in microwaves.  It was the most depressing thing in the world.  Well, it felt like it at the time.  I quit.

Arts?  I know a lot of artists, but they all have day jobs.  Usually of the retail or numbers crunching variety.  It's killing their souls.  

Here's the budget info for the National Endowment for the Arts:

Between 1965 and 2003, the agency has made more than 119,000 grants. Congress granted the NEA annual funding between $160 and $180 million from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s. However, in 1996, Congress slashed NEA funding to $99.5 million (see Chronology of Federal Support to the NEA) as a result of increasing pressure from conservative groups such as the American Family Association, who have criticized the agency for using tax dollars to fund highly controversial artists such as Robert Clark Young, Andres Serrano, Robert Mapplethorpe, and the so-called "NEA Four." Since 1996, the NEA has rebounded somewhat with a 2004 budget of $121 million. [1]

$121 million for the arts

$401.7 billion : Defense Department's base budget
$27.3 billion : Pork
$56 billion : Department of Education

The public schools should be the places where children are exposed to the arts and learn to appreciate them.  (Not all will or can.  I never got math, but they were still obligated to teach me algebra...)

And overview of the NCLB budget shortfalls:  http://www.nea.org/esea/budget.html

Education is underfunded (and poorly managed).  When there is a budget crunch, arts programs are the first to be cut.

Insightful testimonial from an art teacher:

By Ryan Hurley
WEAC PR/Comm summer intern

"I am an endangered species," said Jeff Johnson, who teaches at Westside Academy in Milwaukee. "I am an art teacher."

Johnson strongly believes that the importance of the arts in a child's education is being downplayed by the school district and "when it comes down to it, the children need to be put first."
Since 1993, when legislators imposed revenue caps on public schools, school districts have been forced to make some hard decisions about ways they can cut back spending. Music and art programs were usually among the first to receive severe blows.

More than 10 years later, the slashing of music and art programs is continuing in dramatic fashion. In addition to revenue controls, the recent Elementary and Secondary Education Act (often referred to as the No Child Left Behind law) imposed by the Bush administration has put music and art programs in rough shape and left with a dim future. In hopes of reducing the budget, school districts throughout the state are taking drastic measures by cutting out pieces of art and music programs and in some cases eliminating teaching positions completely.

"These are trying times for all education, especially arts. The No Child Left Behind Act has put a restriction on music programs' ability to thrive," said Nancy Rasmussen, president of Wisconsin Music Educators Association.

Because music and the arts aren't government-tested like reading, writing and math, school districts are pressured to cut them first.

Some other observations: Public TV and Radio, where most arts broadcasting is done, is becoming increasingly corporate sponsored, complete with commercials.  And the content is becoming worse and worse.  The public radio station in Chicago is planning to cut all music programming and stick only to news.  People are baffled.  And the local museums are stopping their free days and changing their ticket price from "suggested donation of" to actually charging everyone.  Too poor to see Picasso?  Boo hoo...

When I was in Russia, people had art in their homes, did art.  Everyone was literate.  And I mean, had read Mark Twain and Dostoyevsky and Flaubert literate.  It wasn't fringe.  As a Slavic librarian, we get all kinds of headaches from people with the same name (Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov) writing poetry, so we have to qualify the authors with titles like (engineer) (physicist) (mathematician).  Engineers!  Writing poetry!  Cats and dogs.  Living together!

Anyway, this is my take on things.  Why I think we are not doing enough to support the arts.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 05:48:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While I agree with your argument that the country doesn't do enough to support the arts, I think you're going too far when you say there are no artists. I know a lot of them that are writing, still doing it in shacks on the Cape (provided by Provincetown Arts), or on an island off the coast of maine (Frontier Arts), or somewhere else in New England (Bennington Arts, Yaddo, MacDowell). Heck, I once found a berth at the Fundacion Valparaiso for a while in Mojacar, Spain, right on the Mediterranean. They gave me a room, fed me, cleaned my clothes, provided lots of wine, and refused to allow any electronic media on the premises. It was wonderful, and I shared that experience with a Nigerian painter, a Bosnian Muslim printmaker, an American poet, a Mexican dancer, and others from Europe. There are still lots of possibilities out there for painters, writers, poets. It's not entirely bleak. I think the American arts scene is still pretty vibrant. In Rochester, NY, near where I live, the students graduate the great music school they have there and quite a few of them are them hosted by community arts programs. One group, Jazz musicians, joined up to make a fusion band out of Jazz, Math Rock and a few surprising twists of their own. A local university gave them free room & boarding in return for a concert on campus every Friday night.

In my local community of Buffalo, there is so much to do in terms of the local arts that one could literally go to three events every night of the week. There are even 6 nationally recognized reading series here that bring writers in from all over the world.

by Upstate NY on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 07:19:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Where did I say there were no artists?

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 09:44:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe I jumped to conclusions when I read these lines...

Generations ago you could make a living in this country being an artist. You used to be able to live on the Cape in a shack and write for a year, now only millionaires can afford a shack on th Cape.  And if you do make it, there is insane pressure from publishing companies to pump out material.  It's all about the bottom line.


Arts?  I know a lot of artists, but they all have day jobs.  Usually of the retail or numbers crunching variety.  It's killing their souls.

I just assumed you were saying that the artists you know can be generalized into a multitude of artists who have 9 to 5 jobs that are killing them.

by Upstate NY on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 10:29:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is certainly vibrant. In Minneapolis and Boston (the cities I have lived in) my experience was similar to yours - there was no shortage of artists, support networks for said artists, or events / showings. Lack of public funds is a problem, but in this wealthy country private donations and philanthropy are very extensive and do more good than people tend to acknowledge.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Aug 10th, 2006 at 02:39:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One piece of the puzzle is the diversion of (some of the) potential artistic talent from traditional channels. In the visual arts, I have often encountered new works that combine a powerful esthetics with jarring symbolism and beautiful execution. The creators clearly represent a broad and deep pool of talent. Their images make their public appearances in magazine advertising.

The diversion of talent from traditional forms of art into the electronic media (video, computer graphics...) contributes to this picture.

Note that I have expressed no opinion regarding whether the products of this talent qualify as art, or (better) where they should be regarded as fitting in the spectrum of creative products that includes the arts.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 07:35:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I more or less agree with this. If you had said "we don't do enough to support the arts" instead of "we don't support the arts" I wouldn't have asked for the reply. Absolute statements particularly about the US (as I am a US citizen) are a good way to provoke me.

The DoD budget is, I think, the most damaging component of the US government. It can't be reduced even by the executive branch, as Clinton discovered. "Managing" the demands of the DoD during a prolonged energy crisis or a decline in US economic power worries me more than those two events themselves due to the DoD's unstoppable inertia.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Aug 10th, 2006 at 02:31:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I enjoyed this fiction diary..:)..very very very much

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 05:12:09 AM EST
Like Margaret Attwood said, when Bill Moyers asked her if she believed in God.  "It makes a much better story if there actually is a god!"

by Keone Michaels on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 11:51:43 AM EST
I would disagree with her. It doesn't really matter if there's a god or not since no one can prove it. If he's there, it's beyond us anyway. The story is the story. It doesn't change either way.
by Upstate NY on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 12:02:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The difference between fiction and non-fiction, in the sense I would understand it, is a matter of degree. All writing is communicating a narrative of some kind, but something that claims to be non-fiction should largely be based on the evidence and use speculation as little as possible.

A work of fiction may well include elements which are 'true'. For example an author writing a novel about Richard Nixon and Watergate might well start by considering primary and secondary historical sources such as the Nixon tapes, the press reports and books by participants in the drama. Then the author will have to formulate a view of what it felt like to be Richard Nixon, seeing his career destroyed by his own choices of action.

If the same author was writing a non-fiction book on the topic his research might be the same, but I hope he would feel more constrained by the source material and less able to speculate beyond the evidence. As it is I suppose the less scrupulous author could insert a lot of imaginary dialogue for which there was no evidence whatever. This would be fine in the novel but not acceptable, in my view, in a work of non-fiction.

A fictional narrative may well include elements from the writers own life or those of people he knows, but a novel is more than just the rearrangement of an account of events. To assert otherwise is to reject the idea of story and the role of imagination in human life.

Equally an autobiography, whilst ostensibly an account of true events in a persons life, may be a highly stylised narrative. Anyone read 'Cider with Rosie'? A marvellous work combining a strong sense of place with an evocation of what the author's childhood felt like, but was every element of the book literal truth?  

by Gary J on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 07:11:10 PM EST
Well, I agree with much of what you say, while I also recognize that the entire non-fiction genre did not begin with the criteria you lay out. Capote is the one who coined the term, and his book contains a great many writing techniques that veer away from the criteria you lay out.

I guess the point I was trying to get at is this: questions about a book's fictionality or non-fictionality (whatever that is) are not the most important questions a reader may ask when they pick up a text.

by Upstate NY on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 10:35:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that was a great read, cheers upstate.

i felt the same after 9/11 as mceuan and naipaul, but really it just upped the bar-

still it provoked some interesting notions i've been having about culture and identity.

i VERY rarely have nightmares, but a few weeks ago i had a doozy...

i was in some faceless woman's lap, feeling her soothing, maternal presence... i was an adult though, no baby.

and i was beseeching her to help me refind my identity, because i had lost it.

looking back i wonder why this was so terrifying, as my i.d. causes me many problems which i often would happily trade away for someone else's, but in the dream i was totally broken, a gibbering wreck.

i had fallen asleep to fox news, no kidding.

since then the notion of identity has a whole new resonance, and as a theme it is recurrent, though fortunately the dream was not.

culture and identity...it doesn't get any corer that that...

which is why i like this blog; after almost a month with no net access, it's great to be back.

ta, y'all

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 08:07:31 PM EST
That's great. As long as you're only searching for an identity in your nightmares, you're fine. As long as you're not "identified" in real life, you're fine too.
by Upstate NY on Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 10:31:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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