Friday, March 4, 2011

the round table.

Three booksellers, two writers and a painter, are wondering what the hell the problem is. The cocktail of hope and desire and suspicion and surmise gets passed around the, actually, square table piled waist high with Patti Smith, Malcolm Gladwell, Barack Obama, Jaron Lanier, Michael Lewis, John Banville; and we are all careful with the cup as we pass, but if, as Jodie wishes, Marcel Proust were at table, and if, as Gene surely would have it, David Foster Wallace could be here to drain his share, and if, as I like to think I desire, Jackson Pollock could keep himself from drinking everyone else's share, if they were with us at this table, things might make more sense. What is the problem? Are there no readers? If there are readers, are they thinking, are they comparing, are they judging, are they applying what they confront on the page to their own experiences? Are there writers? Are the writers reading? Are the writers synthesizing what their peers, living and dead, have to offer, and are they overturning it, exalting it, destroying it?

Are there no stages, other than Oprah?
Are there too many stages, any of a million blogs?

When Beckett and Joyce put pen to paper it seems, from this distance, that the world was their stage, and that the world was listening.
Later, when David Foster Wallace put pen to paper, a bunch of writers got excited to write about eccentric geniuses in boarding school.
When who paints? Yeah, I like this gallery, too, do you want to go get a drink somewhere now?

I don't think there was any end to this conversation, I don't think there will ever be.

But I'm the one writing this momentary fragment of my impression of a conversation that was loosely based around a vague unsettling feeling that goes something like "what the hell is the problem here?" which was shared by three young people who are actively engaged in their passion. And while the feeling is vague, and its presence unsettling, it is shared.

It is shared.
It is shared.
It is shared.

I am the one writing this, so I will offer my conclusion. I say that we are in a brilliantly lit Dark Age. We can all see every last thing that everyone else is clamouring to show us. We are all hyper-literate, communicatory omni-presence is at our fingertips and spilling into our ears, and every word and every image is backlit and projected; aimed at everyone of us and pinning each of us in the spotlight of our own stage.

How do the brightest lights - the ones among us whose fires, in an earlier age, would have lit up a world bathed in its own natural state of darkness - make themselves seen now? The contrast is turned down to zero, the brightness up to one hundred. What is on the other side of this moment? And if, as my wife lamented recently, with rage rippling under the words, everything in the modern world is all sewn up, where is the slipped stitch that those with the knives of creation can exploit?

When Proust wrote, he felt all the time in the world, and he made a story out of it.
Who among us feels they have even one day?

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