I watched on PBS last night an excellent show, hosted by Simon Schama, about artists Van Gogh and Picasso.
Noteworthy to me was the always-present sense of excitement of hearing about how these two giants changed their art form. Change. Change! There was from them no acceptance of the status quo.
American literature today, despite a few technical changes, like the rise of the Internet, is stuck in limbo. Its advocates are immoveable. The present which is already the past is being swept away, but the mandarins fight rear guard actions, trying to save what can't be saved. The art of the book within the larger culture is in retreat-- on the book stage a few chairs are rearranged, and not many at that.
Literature today is hardened in concrete. Editors, critics, and writers believe the history of literature is over. Real change is anathema to them; it has to be shut out. They close their eyes and stop up their ears. Instead, established lit folk wrap their arms around last underground rebels like Bukowski and Ginsberg, without for one minute considering the underground NOW. Their actions are self-serving and always conditional.
CELEBRATING THE FAKE
Postmodern literature especially is an expression of the Cult of the Lie-- a last residue of the worst aspects, usually totalitarian, of the past century.
(From my perspective, literature TODAY is totalitarian, as it seeks to impose a 99.9% agreement standard upon writers. Contrary voices are allowed as long as they don't say anything contrary. "Can't we all just get along?" It's an attitude guaranteed to stop change and to leave a tottering status quo in place.)
I've discussed on other blogs the artist's search for truth. Those who read my posts don't have a clue what I'm talking about. The truth? What's that? For them, the truth is conditional. What they say or believe is based upon matters of expediency.
The contradiction of today's writing world is that the structure itself is rigidly in place. It's a large voluminous building made of concrete. The writers inside do as they're told. They have no internal standards; have been tested by life too seldom to have gained them. They can only watch flashing lights on a board instructing them how to behave; which pack of lies to follow.
The underground writer, on the other hand, exists outside the institution, with no guides to follow but his own sense and the passed-down model of great ancestors. To survive, in that world of uncontrolled nature, such writers need backbone; a code. Free-thinking-- truly free thinking-- they're able to see the concrete dome as it is. They're able to think for themselves and can think truly new ideas-- ideas grounded in the reality of experience and life.
From the voices trapped inside the concrete building are heard feeble reactions against authenticity and knowledge. They glorify the fake because fakery is all they have-- all they've been allowed to acquire.
Whatever I have to say is wasted on them. I'll search the broader world for those who can hear the message of DIY, leaving the babble of voices inside the rotting concrete structure behind.