23 December 2017

Against The Literary Imperative

literature/the novel: "a lie that tells the truth"


=pre-industrial infotainment?!
e.g. when the latest trove of freshly leaked government records is not nearly entertaining enough to hold the attention of an audience whose record keeping is not quite so thorough. instead, storytime! ergo the collective appointment of mandarin technocrats to digest the proverbial federalist papers on our collective behalf. ergo the offense taken to such appointees, drawing as they do equal attention to our own deficiencies as to any justly-sounded alarms. down with the mandarins! unless they entertain us! (and unless we may continue to reason anecdotally! especially if we are 'oppressed'!) thus is the political colonized by the aesthetic and the aesthetic colonized by the political; thus are the minds and souls of the people conquered, in their own names, so as to preserve psychic domicile over a dead land mass; thus the suddenly-old saying about 'letting the terrorists win' metamorphoses from talk-radio zinger to supremely useful figure of speech to the master narrative of our time; etc., etc. so no more art for art's sake k? cuz that is a lie that just plain lies. and we won't stand for that any longer.

...perhaps more specifically...

=victorian infotainment?!
i.e. for those tough household spills wherein The Truth in its unadulterated form is simply unspeakable. in its place, a little white lie! just this once! for your own good! hence a privileged position for literature among The Arts, the lesser castes aspiring half-heartedly to do what literature does vis-a-vis Great Big Truths and Little White Lies. all hail literary thought, the bounty paper towel of the left, soaking up spilled grape juice a whole glass at a time while the leading national brand just turns to grapy pudding. don't make grapy pudding, kids! make art!


this place of literature in The Arts and in Society can (and should) (and must) be deconstructed in the best sense of that term. perhaps owing to the impenetrable language in which this has been undertaken by academics, word seems not to have reached the (wo)man on the street that sometimes (or, uh...perhaps most of the time??) a lie is just a lie. less excusable yet is the effect of such "privileged positions" on the internal political dynamics of the professional art world: as in the wider political and social world, a subclass of Limousine Liberals emerges, an art-ontological Bourgeoisie who not only wield the greatest explanatory power but know it too. hence more is more: more narrative, more amplitude, more ethnicity, more mixing of media, more shouting over each other just to be heard; and yes, ever more consequentialist mendacity in purported service of deferred truthtelling. whew!! damned if you don't have to deconstruct just to get through the day!! damned if a profusion of Little White Lies isn't the most effective concealment of one Great Big One!!

hence the guiding rejoinder to the given truism:
"If truth-telling is so important, why not just do that? What are all these indirect paths we keep hearing about and what is lost/gained by way of each one?"
the aestheticist 99% demand answers.

...to wit...

=an aesthetically nihilist (or at least agnostic) social imperative for literature (and its imitators, all the other Arts)

that is, an imperative to address itself (themselves) to social matters which demand corrective Truth-Telling on account of a prevailing Lie which is presently doing more harm than good. (this is nothing like the Little White Lies that literature tells! those we are proud of!)

but of course there are *other* socially valuable functions for art and literature, and there are *other* aesthetics which have prospective value/potential but which necessarily are at odds with this narrow social imperative. further, wider social imperatives necessarily beget value systems, and any value system grown up around such concerns is bound to reinscribe itself on the narrow internal value systems of artists and artmaking. this, then, becomes the opposite of the liberationist gesture which activist artists would like to posit for it; rather, it clutters the social world of critical and popular reception with arbitrary proscriptions and inhibitions, above all a deep distrust of the ineffable which is anathema to so many extraliterary artistic traditions in so many ways.

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