Delicately Broached Negation

Brian Dillon, Essayism, 2017

‘Aestheticizing’, we’d learn to say of such love; I hate the word to this day. As if there were anything available, anything left, except aesthetics, except an effort to frame the wreckage in the aftermath, at the last. The refusal of ‘aestheticization’ is a refusal to accept the worst, but dressed up as its opposite. The greatest art is nothing but delicately broached negation. I went looking for writers who would tell me that, time and again.

Books That Would Prefer Not To

Alejandro Zambra, Not to Read, 2018

Books say no to literature. Some. Others, the majority, say yes. They obey the market or the holy spirit of governments. Or the placid idea of a generation. Or the even more placid idea of a tradition. I prefer books that say no. Sometimes, even, I prefer the books that don’t know what they are saying.

. . . [W]e write only when others haven’t written the book we want to read. That’s why we write one of our own, one that never turns out to be what we wanted it to be. We say no to literature so that literature, for its part, will say no to us. So the book will be, always, a space that we weren’t expecting: a way out, but not the way we were expecting.

‘Not knowing how to write could perhaps be exactly what saves me from literature,’ says Clarice Lispector, again. In the non-fiction chronicles of A Descoberta do Mundo [Discovery of the World], Lispector insists on the desire that her stories not be stories, that her novels not be novels, and not out of any attachment to a forced experimentalism or to the kind of commonplaces that literary workshops return to again and again, with admirable patience: Lispector does not seek to surprise or captivate the reader.

Don’t Just Do Something: Sit There

Will Self, “Will Self on the Literary Novel’s Demise, and Why Naomi Klein Won’t Fix the World” by Nick Doherty. Maclean’s, 16 January 2018

It’s hugely unpopular in our overcharged, hollowed-out humanist democracies, to be quietistic: to think in terms of doing less harm rather than doing more good. People experience that as a counsel of despair, but they’re profoundly wrong to. Indeed, I would argue that if you think about the problems the world is facing, a quietistic movement is the best possible response. Don’t just do something; sit there. Don’t fly Naomi Klein to another country to talk your arse off, which is really about commodifying your own career. Nothing she has done in the past 25 years has led to any reduction in corporate activities, global warming—so what’s she f—–g for? Nothing [laughs]. If she’d spent her time telling people to do less, we might have a more pacific, less febrile world.

The Great Internal Rumination

Will Self, “Will Self on the Literary Novel’s Demise, and Why Naomi Klein Won’t Fix the World” by Nick Doherty. Maclean’s, 16 January 2018

Years ago, I said [novel-writing] would become a conservatoire form, like easel painting or the symphony, but I didn’t quite understand how all of these kids in creative writing programs, and their constant focus-grouping, would create a new form that’s halfway between hobbyism and literature. It’s an occupation for wealthy Western youth who are marking time. Because there are more writers than readers now, it’s decoupled from any conversation. It’s like a great internal rumination.