Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I am back to save the universe

I am born again.

I just finished reading Great House by Nicole Krauss. And I was largely disappointed. The fragmented narrative structure, while certainly relevant to the story, is carried out on a level not grand enough to make its point, yet not subtle enough to be excusable. Krauss, it seems [based on the two of her three novels I have read] is working - much like her husband - to write in silence as well as sound. The gaps, the things unsaid or untold, are as pertinent to her stories as the print. It feels, on the surface, like a very po-mo approach, playing with the absent presence, etc.

And yet . . .

The whole novel centers on the ideas of privacy - in art and relationships. The novel follows four [well, five if you count the epilogue] artists. Four people united tangentially by a large writing desk. Three of the plot-lines are about writers, specifically, and how regardless of how hard they try, how earnest their prose, they are ultimately incapable of communicating anything that matters. They live in isolation. The book reiterates time and again that there are secrets that not only should not, but in some cases literally cannot be shared.

I'm not averse to the core idea here. Rilke taught me years ago [forgive the affectation] that we all live in locked rooms. That, as Brian Doyle wrote, "In the end, we are utterly open with no one." But as true as those sentiments ring, they are followed by an unspoken agreement: that despite our inability to convey perfectly our innermost thoughts and desires, we will try anyway.

Therein lies the beauty of the post-modern, for me. That rather than leaving memory alone, or accepting the alienation of a structuralist approach, it takes apart the signs and symbols and then asks for a rebuilding -- a collaboration.

And that's what I think art [including the art of love] is really about. Collaboration. Understanding that there will be misunderstandings [really, that there can hardly be anything else], but trusting that both parties will put forth an effort to convey and interpret in a sacred and seeking manner. In a manner of real Charity.

I watched 8 1/2 last night - Fellini's film on the creative process. And I am enamored with it. This is a real discussion of art. It is oblique in ways that Great House refuses to be; in ways that admit the enormity of a collaboration. It refrains from didacticism not as a pretense, but as a sincere acknowledgment that the act of creation is simply too enormous to reduce to a comprehensive whole. Watch it. Pay attention to the final scene, and you'll hopefully get my point [and the shivers].

I don't mean to be too harsh to Krauss. She is trying, even if her characters are not. And to say that I took nothing away from the book is a reflection on my reading more than on the work itself. But as one who writes [I will not flatter myself with the title of "artist"], and as a human being, I can't bring myself to endorse the picture of humanity it seems to be advocating.

Please don't think I am claiming a perfect understanding of this -- of art, or of love, or of their inextricable link. I am learning. I fail sometimes. No, I fail a lot of the time.

But I am trying regardless.