There's a truly befuddling amount of stuff on my mind today - in the best way possible, thankfully, which is to say non-stressful ruminations. In reverse chronological order then:
The Rescue Artist. The Times Magazine has a profile of Everything Is Illuminated and soon Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close author Jonathan Safran Foer by Deborah Solomon, which starts off as a typical NYT Mag portrait piece (distinct from what elsewhere, done slightly differently, would be a "puff piece") and changes, I think even to Solomon's surprise, via Foer's own earnest concern with what it means to be human & humane etc. today, into an acute vignette of human foible, eccentricity, and yearning for communion. That's a lot of poofy portent there, in my last sentence; the piece in the Times is far more measured and accomplished, I'll cop to that fact right away. But still the whole piece & subsequent consideration on my noon jog got me thinking about Foer in particular and his generation of artists more generally as harbingers of the new, or rather a new, way of making felt art from tragedy via history, reflection, wit... I need to follow up on several things I just said, now don't I. Well I'd loosely group the McSweeneyists in with Foer, which group includes Amy Fusselman (The Pharmacist's Mate) and Dave Eggers natch - these are the first standard-bearers of the cabal out there hiply jotting down observations & witticisms to the end of emotionally-realized story (italics needed) as distinct from say your Easton Ellises and Foster Wallaces, which latter author's first book The Broom of the System I am now enjoying, but not quite feeling. Foer's EII, I felt. Eggers's AHWOSG I felt. Fusselman's TPM (looks like "The Phantom Menace"), ditto. Probably I'm reading some goodly deal into these texts as being more "felt" because of their connection to "reality" - each one's author has confessed each text comes with substantive grounding in reality, departures from that reality being OK and within the realm of poetic / authorial license; still, these texts feel distinct to me from the aforementioned Postmodern poster children with their icy smirks, shell games, and jazz hands. And plus, with all of that, there's the emerging realization in the NYT Mag piece, which Solomon captures just wonderfully, that Foer's worry to her, the reporter, that maybe he hasn't despite all efforts to shown her the true, most human essence of himself. Deborah Solomon:
"His letters, much like his fiction, are conceived ''as an end to loneliness,'' as he once put it in an e-mail message. And while most of the letters in the world -- at least the good ones -- are similarly written to allay our loneliness, Foer seems haunted by an aching awareness of the probability of defeat. What, in the end, can we really know of one another?
''I think it would be nice to meet again,'' he wrote one day. ''It will give me a chance to give you a fuller picture -- even if the fuller picture is not a better picture. . . . It pains me to think that I have not yet given you enough about me, as a person. Two meetings. What if, by chance -- by mood, by weather, by biochemistry -- I grossly misrepresented myself?'' "
Lots of idealism in there - that there is a self, for one, and somewhere a Derridean Deconstructionist is uncapping her Cross pen with a flourish - and also lots of melancholic Aw-shucksery, but you know, I wonder if these aren't the qualities we need in our writing and our lives. And the impulse to end loneliness is one with which I identify. It's one thing for me to espouse the value of these new forms of communication and the cultural aesthetics they may enable. It's another to realize that value myself, by actually communicating with you all out there, my phantom Disruptive Juxtaposition visitors. Jeremy Gregersen suggested the kernel of Post-post lay in the Internet; where TV, choice appliance of the Postmodern Generation, spat clevernesses at its captive hipsters and demanded nothing save ever more attention, our choice appliance, the computer / 'Net / blogosphere, gives us the chance to talk back. And to listen. In terms slightly more sonar than Internet: to ping and be pinged off of. To detect and be detected. Ping. Ping.