January 29, 2006



ANGRY FRIEND: We're both saying that there is a preoccupation with a work's reality, whether gangsta-rap credentials or memoir credentials. But does that preoccupation exist because of a deeper uneasiness? Maybe, as you say, these are just maneuvers that allow readers to get inside a work, ways for them to verify a work's fact-truth so that they feel justified moving forward with their own emotional-truth. But that puts us back at the top of the loop. Why do people need fact-truth, especially when it's so clearly a special effect? If the effect of a Work on Reader(s) is the only ultimate outcome, then why isn't there broader agreement that what matters isn't a work's Truth so much as what's true in it? Interestingly this was Oprah's first line of argument -- that the book connected with her whether or not it was factual. Case closed. But then came this second phase, with her talk of betrayal, with his apology, with the backpedaling over who knew what when. That's the wrangling you're talking about, which you say needs to be done so that people don't feel like frauds. I don't disagree. I'm just wondering what there is in the broader culture that predisposes people to feel like frauds, and whether that weakens them significantly when it comes to making real judgments about truth and lies. You say that most people think that "if [they] can track down the actual origins of someone's story, then [they'll] be holding something solid." Again I agree. But why are they so covetous of this solidity? Is it partly because the world around them seems less solid, filled with fake-o intimacy and anonymous communication and scripted tv masquerading as reality tv? Oh, also, I made one dum error re: Alice Sebold. Lovely Bones is a novel, and the book she wrote before, Lucky, was a memoir that was relatively unsuccessful. So that's either a counterexample, or another interesting wrinkle. (In her story she was victimized by someone else, not her own victim, so maybe that's a factor--she had nothing to apologize for and no easy way to emotionally resolve her story.)

ME: I think the "squeeze" theory is relevant. The increased obviousness of something we will call lying (see Ari Fleischer) jacks up the need for something that might not be a lie. This all being separate from the effects created by the things that do or don't need to be lies to work.

ANGRY FRIEND: Also this is all pretty close to Baudrillard and his root story of hyperreality -- the map that Borges wrote about that is exactly as big as the territory it is mapping. That's the real that is not real.

ME: This is also a book, a book as important as any of the books that got me thinking of these things in the first place (camera lucida, lenin and philosophy, power/knowledge.)

Posted by Sasha at January 29, 2006 09:23 PM | TrackBack