A Beautiful Fuck You to Reality

David Winters, “Learning From Lish: A Roundtable on Style in Fiction” by David Winters, Greg Gerke, and Jason Lucarelli, The Literarian 14 (September 2013)

But I think some of what you’ve both said links up quite well with Lish’s thinking on “noise,” and with his valuing of “mystery” over “information.” My understanding is that Lish advises writers to work against the cacophony of contemporary culture. As he says, “it is necessary to attempt some kind of severance between ourselves and the noise that is everywhere thus.” Now, this severance could take several forms — I see it, for instance, in Gary Lutz’s refusal to specify the locations of his stories; or in his regret at having used a brand name (Coca-Cola) in one of them.

At a more elemental level, maybe writing has to cast a silence around itself. …One difference between our generation and Lish’s is that we live in a so-called “information age.” But if we are to create art, the message that arises from much of this writing is that we must make information our enemy. Right now, for instance, Jason Schwartz is one of the few writers still working out ways to do this. Schwartz’s work speaks in a style that startles the surrounding world into silence. His stories are radically self-sufficient, and in this respect they work against our age’s entropic reduction of language to data. The philosopher Theodor Adorno once wrote that “art is magic, delivered from the lie of being truth.” And since we’re speaking of “tradition,” perhaps this is precisely what artworks were in prehistory — mysteries; auratic artefacts whose very existence was an affront, a beautiful ‘fuck you” to reality.

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