Reading Blonde’s, Joe’s and Michael’s posts.
I think B’s discussion of speed is useful for beginning to articulate some of the problems posed by Joe and Michael, specifically the problem(s) of agency and/or desire, which is another way of saying the difficulties that fiction has in the realm of politics. When Michael writes that fiction “respond[s] to the culture in which we live as we live in it,” and Joe writes that he wants his writing to function in the world (what he calls “purpose,”) I’m hearing a similar argument, that writing should work immediately in the world, make it a better place etc. I’m not sure anyone will argue with this desire: I believe we all want a better world, and we all hope that writing is way to achieve this. And innovative writing, because it breaks the rules of realism and realistic narrative, might be the ‘best’ type of writing to do this.
But we can’t forget Blonde’s post, and Virilio’s idea of speed, or Dromology, what Blanchot calls Impatience (“It is impatience which makes the goal inaccessible by substituting for it the proximity of an intermediary figure. It is impatience that destroys the way toward the goal by preventing us from recognizing in the intermediary the figure of the immediate” [Space of Literature 80]). The problem with the desire of wanting our writing to work immediately in the world is complex, but for this post, can be broken down into two points. First of all, the desire of the writer plays an almost non-existent role in how her writing will be received. If it played a larger role, we’d all be rich, famous AND important (in whatever order you chose). Writers simply don’t have much say in how their writing will be received. The second problem is the problem of impatience, with the word “immediately.” I don’t think immediacy is the answer. I don’t think we can expect our writing to immediately affect the world. If writing has any culture work, it will be in the future, in vague and hidden (obscene) ways, in hard to discern, important, subtle ways. This is why, on one hand, I can welcome Michael’s naïve writer, but on the other, I’m afraid the naive solutions, because they may be immediate, will be superficial, fading into history like Upton Sinclair. This is also why I mistrust Joe’s desire (or actually maybe his solution) for a socially responsible writing, as imaginative writing primarily used as immediate political activism seems to me to be fairly ineffective intervention. I just don’t see where it works, and in the case of writing by women in the later part of this century, I feel that the attempt to privilege “engaged’ writing has led to a serious regression, both on the aesthetic and political levels. Not to mention the almost total erasure of non-realistic women writers. But that’s probably another post.Jeffrey