Decreative Writing

Simon Critchley, “Episodic Blips,” On Bowie (2016): 15-16

The unity of one’s life consists in the coherence of the story one can tell about ourself. People do this all the time. It’s the lie that stands behind the memoir. Such is the raison d’être of a big chunk of what remains of the publishing industry, which is fed by the ghastly gutter world of creative writing courses. Against this, and with Simone Weil, I believe in decreative writing that moves through spirals of ever-ascending negations before reaching . . . nothing.

I also think that identity is a very fragile affair. It is at best a sequence of episodic blips rather than some grand narrative unity. As David Hume established long ago, our inner life is made up of disconnected bundles of perceptions that lie around like so much dirty laundry in the rooms of our memory. This is perhaps the reason why Brion Gysin’s cut-up technique, where text is seemingly randomly spliced with scissors — and which Bowie famously borrowed from William Burroughs — gets so much closer to reality than any version of naturalism.

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