Posts Tagged: Pesidential Debate

Partial Transcript Of Secret Presidential Debate On Contemporary Literature


[“You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem…”]

“…because you know, that sense that they’re getting a taste of the real, that’s what the audience eats up.  ‘My people’—heh, sorry—my people, your people, doesn’t matter whose people, this is a broader American thing, to need to see beneath the veneer of the public persona into some darker, messier private place that complicates the image.  The idea that the average American success narrative is just the glossy cover over a writhing field of neuroses and tics and dark hidden things.  In literature, unlike in public life, it’s much more complicated, though, right, because that sense, within the space of an essay or poem, of receiving a more unmediated or “real” transmission from the author, something that’s not supposed to be seen, has to be false; if anything, that “authentic moment” that thrills the reader just represents a higher level of mediation and fabrication, right?”

“Do you really think I want to talk about this right now, Barack?”

[“All right, we have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it…”]

“And I guess, kind of related to that, one of the important questions of our current literary moment—think about, say, recent work by Ben Lerner or Sheila Heti or Teju Cole—is whether it’s possible for contemporary fiction to find ways to make use of the charge of the writer’s identity and the incorporation of materials from real life and journalism, to play with textual form and markers of authorial presence to create that frisson of the real that comes naturally to poetry and the essay, or whether, as a genre, it’s become fundamentally handicapped there in relationship to the others and it just has to cede that territory for a while and focus on what it can do better than the rest of literature.”

[“And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen…”]

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