CULTURE WITH NO CLUTTER
An extrapolation on the birth of Nemonymous:: the journal of parthenogenetic fiction and late labelling.
The memorable nemonomics of this magazine point to launchpad before the end of 2001:: 80 pages of fiction stories in a perfect bound landscape-format journal with colour cover. Some stories were submitted to the editor anonymously, others not. All will be first presented nemonymously, ie with contents of by-lines only in subsequent issues. World famous and lesser known writers alike. Literary, Horror, Science Fiction…
I eschew intentionality (& biographies) -- purity of the music of literature a given -- but I sense James Joyce contemplated this angst towards (at least) the end of his life, hence Finnegans Wake.
I'm reading Milan Kundera's THE BOOK OF LAUGHTER AND FORGETTING at the moment. Full of strangenesses and multi-eroticisms. But that's not what is most interesting about it. Originally written in Czech, then effectively translated by author himself into French, then author approves someone else's English translation from the French version. It makes me lose my customary 'purist' concerns about the essential text! Also helps with my latest passion for deintentionalising. But maybe I'm in danger of what is the literary equivalent of aqua-planing in a car.
As well as into mainstream literature, I'm into horror/science fiction -- and I recall HEART OF DARKNESS being more aligned with these genres: psychological horror in a Jungian mould. And wasn't the film APOCALYPSE NOW based on it? That's all I can recall. But I have read another Joseph Conrad more recently which throws up interesting considerations, ie his novel CHANCE. The question "does fiction need sympathetic characters?" comes to mind. I plump for there being a spectrum of sympathy, depending on the reader’s moral or mood-driven predisposition. In CHANCE, the characters and particularly the heroine are drained of any motive or sympathy or even non-sympathy because of the layering of narrative: we hear a spoken voice telling an inscrutable narrator of someone else’s view of someone else’s view of certain events, mix and match between. But it does not seem to lessen one’s interest in the book: it is character-driven and sympathy is allowed to take a backseat in preference to exploring one’s own motives for assigning certain motives to certain types of people just on the basis of hearsay and chance. -- (Conrad writes in introduction to CHANCE: “And it is only for their intentions that men can be held responsible” and this novel seeks to show, I think, that any intentions (even one’s own) are essentially unknowable).
WK Wimsatt on the Intentional Fallacy extrapolates from this: "...the design or intention of the author is neither available nor desirable..."
The Verbal Icon (1954).
I find it very convincing. A work should be uncluttered by any considerations re artist and audience -- once it is posited in the arena as an artefact to walk round and read and felt, phonetically, semantically and word-sculpturally. It is sacrosanct, discrete, susceptible to description, interpretation, evaluation. The work is god. We must approach it with respect, uncertain whether we shall ever reach its essential core or root. As to the essentially unknowable mishmashes of historico.biographico details surrounding its creation and of multifarious emotional/spiritual/intellectual responses by millions and millions of readers (all different and unknowable, unknowable even to each one of them in terms of phenomenology and the mind being the same thing as its own imperfect filter) -- well all that stuff is very enjoyable and can give perspective from those very angles of attack (worthy in themselves) ... but they are not literary angles of attack.
The poem itself should convey what emotions it naturally holds, whether given it to the poet or not. How do we know that tears were streaming down the face, also?
Authorial intention and audience reaction are equally spurious. Each one of us may have a different emotion, some marginally different, some markedly so. How can we ever know? I hate (and love) unknowable things. It may be good to speculate on them. New Criticism (if that is what it is) is not cold and emotionless, it is merely insulating the wondrous product of emotion/imagination/description to ease the reader's own description-interpretation-evaluation uncluttered from stray tangents.
Life is one long continuous inference. And if I saw a photograph I would infer that a photographer had taken it or -- if the evidence pointed to it -- the camera had gone off accidentally. There can be no other 'common sense' inference in the practicality of life. We make inferences such as this every day of our lives, otherwise we wouldn't survive. However, that is nothing to do with the stripping bare from unknowable inferences any attempt to view a work of art, so as to give that work as much chance as possible to work. Art is not practical life. It is something more special. The photogarph in question may be an abstract blur (from the camera being dropped) or a skewed landscape because of amateurish use of the camera; yet if we ignored 'practical life' for the sake of judging, experiencing, enjoying that image as a work of art or a Duchamp-like ready-made, then we have entered a new domain of true evaluation uncluttered by 'practicalities'. If Art is nothing else, surely it is to take people on ventures spiritually or aesthetically beyond such practicalities. And I see every reason for the concept of Art to subsume literature in this way. Having said that, literature often treats of or touches upon (in direct or skewed fashion) such 'practicalities' in terms of plot etc, but that is quite different from experiencing that work with the aid of the same or similar practicalities or hang-ups from inferred history or biography or intention or extrapolated mass audience response. One should open the mind to its message, clear of any bias.
I am feeling my way, almost theorizing upon the hoof, and I find the whole exercise self revelatory. I am not a professional student or teacher. I write creatively for a hobby but otherwise, at the age of 53, I do an ordinary job. That's just to give you background and sense of 'intention' to my interest in this subject.
An episode of Coronation St may have one purpose but I may see it as a discrete section of wonderful Pinteresque drama.
A work of literature should live and breathe on its own. A work and its internal world can satisfyingly subsist almost parthenogenetically (even with a collusive or non-collusive internal intention or narrator) but necessarily eschewing any higher 'god' such as its author or external environment of intention. Suspended disbelief is all important for full enjoyment as literature or escapism or art or verse/song/emotional poem whatever term you require -- except if you are also a historian then the context of the community aimed at is more important.
There is, I feel, a Platonic Form that we should aspire towards -- so that we can reach as close as possible to some ultimate truth of an artefact or a work; after all, at best, we seem to need to discern its blurred intention-warped aspect via our mind and via our mind's filter (a filter that is the same mind which needs filtering!). Why not at least try to shrug off such warping.
Whilst many are cluttering life up with unnecessary things, unknowable things, things that can go bump in the night: clutter upon clutter. At least I'm aspiring towards only one layer of clutter: a culture with least clutter that makes me yearn for its uncluttering.
Unknowable and misreported history. So many views on what started a war. So many angles of political and non-political correctness. We should strive for purity.
I have maintained that 'history' is valuable in itself, always interesting, sometimes seemingly conclusive as to what happened or not. I am merely saying it should be kept away from literature, to allow that literature to shine forth uncluttered
The whole discussion is cluttered so far: inevitably. Almost like a any debate in a pub. I'll get my coat...No, having slept on it, I still believe in the Parthenogenetic Principle of Literature (my term - you heard it here first!). I still aspire towards those ideals. It eases the ritual passage of suspended disbelief when you're reading fiction especially. One of my other passions is classical music. But we still have people there who, for example, hate Wagner's music for all the wrong reasons, ie. their view of Wagner himself and the surrounding history. History, if not seen to be wholly unknowable, is phenomenologically unknowable or, at least, more unknowable than the story or poem or novel laid bare before you. I shall continue to maintain this and, if the spirit of this is appreciated, will lead to greater enjoyment and, yes, understanding of the work itself (potentially) without any stray tangents. In adversity, the inner bone structure of an argument juts its jaw forward and shapes up in a clearer, less pedantic way.
Less of this artsy fartsy stuff. Nemonymous, if nothing else, is a gimmick. It will work. You know it will work. The fascination of not knowing is intrinsic to fiction - as well as learning to know inexperienceable things.
Be a Name-Dropper.
D F Lewis: Nemonymous Article