And just as apt to be forgotten, overlooked, or left for dead

September 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

In a sense, a novel corresponds exactly to nothing but itself, and yet it cannot be made out of nothing, so the  novel is derivatively nonmimetic and, like any other text, a verbal area to focus on so as to have it in common with others, more or less. But it is almost inappropriate to refer to a certain novel by Flaubert as Madame Bovary; the only accurate, unskimping mode of allusion to it is to read aloud the whole novel each time you want to refer to it. To do so would surely end all generalizations and install in its place something good: a devout, patient, endless of act reading. That, maybe, is the only way of making permanent contact with the  mind. . . .

Daily the presses churn out routine novels, noticed with routine politeness by reviewers who will never know better. Such is the last behavioral waltz of the nineteenth century. Fiction and the novel have moved on, never mind in how awkward and befuddled a disarray, reductive or bloated. Literary art may never offer a beginning, a middle, and an end, in that order again, except out of nostalgia, and maybe even those three in any causal relationship whatever. The plural novel will have middles, ends, beginnings, held together in the auteur’s mind, and the novel will have finally begun to catch up, technically speaking, with Pollock and Rothko, Debussy and Messiaen. Sheer consumerism has always kept the novel back, making it into a commodity rather than an art form whose calling is to say what it is like to be alive in a certain time, to remind us of our intimate selves by being there, on the paper, in the ink, as brand-new, warm, and tweakable as we are. And just as apt to be forgotten, overlooked, or left for dead. (Sheer Fiction)

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