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Interiority Complex April 12, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, books, literature, Odd Words, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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NetLit maven Scott McClannahan discusses the differences between him and many of his peers in “NetLit”, the young generation of writers closely tied to online literary communities they participate in, over at HTMLGiant. In this particular case, the question is as interesting than the answer.

You often tour and read with good writers whose project is a kind of willful avoiding of interiority, and which seems rather self-protective in its unwillingness to take positions on things. There is a flatness to that kind of now-very-popular prose which seems in many ways to be the opposite of the aesthetic you’re chasing here, which seems to take up the side of utmost vulnerability. When you think of your work, do you think of it on these terms? What is it that you are trying to accomplish with your stories? Do you mean to offer the reader a particular type of experience, or do you think of the reader at all? You must, is what I think, since you even address the reader directly in the book.

McCLANAHAN: Yeah, I think there’s something really phony about saying you don’t want to create something within the reader or you could care less about issues of politics, Frisbees, whatever. I’m from a state where people die every week so that you can check your e-mail. The outside world exists.

I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had with people over the past couple of weeks going on about the dangers of nuclear power. I want to say, “Do you know how many coal miners across the globe have died in the past sixty years?”

Now, do I want to write about that? Of course not, but is it part of my world? Of course it is.

I’m just saying that people are alive. I’m just saying, “I exist. Do you exist? Isn’t life fucking miserable sometimes, but isn’t it fucking great to be alive sometimes too?”

I know existing doesn’t create a sense of obligation in anyone, but I’m just afraid we’re going to lose our capacity for joy if we’re not careful. We are the Pill Generation. Who wants to be against JOY? I don’t. Some folks just want to talk you to death.

Emphasis mine. Which I guess is to say if you like Tao Lin you really won’t like this blog, but it’s not too late to escape. Come back and talk to me about Lin after you’ve slogged through some Robbe-Grillet. Or at least some Raymond Carver, where if nothing else happens the sun moves beautifully across the kitchen as the characters drink themsevles into a stupor, and do not answer “Whaddya wanna do?” with “I dunno, whadda you wanna do?”

Maybe it was that class on Logical Positivism that messed me up (look what a serious philosophy jones did to David Foster Wallace) but I tend to reject a self-consciously (meta-) ironic superficiality as an aesthetic. To me interiority is the only place of authority from which to look out at the world, to publish the passwords to your soul as the one certain way to connect for good or ill with your reader, or any other living soul.

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