Thus proceeds the magic, the aura, the spellbinding peculiarity of Benjamin’s essay. Its glimpses of the future of narrative prose and enduring proposals about its history continue to prompt vigorous dialogues that circle back upon themselves--testing out agreements, then proposing new theories of artistic production that collapse at odd moments, like an extended metaphor. And running parallel to this discourse is another, even stranger way of thinking about Benjamin: the counterfactual imagination, which has the doomed German critic showing up at a Dairy Queen in West Texas to diagnose Americans with collective memory loss, or moving to Los Angeles with contemporaries Adorno and Horkheimer to help write the history of urban decay. Perilously, we have embarked on yet another such inquiry, one that acknowledges the influence of Benjamin’s last days on literary criticism, but attempts to recover from the industry more valuable aspects of the cultural apprehension that foregrounds “The Storyteller.” My own essay undertakes a demonstration, more specifically, in stories by Etgar Keret, Sherman Alexie, and Brian Doyle, of certain enduring elements of narrative prose: brevity or compactness; accumulation, or the piling up of multiple tellings; practical wisdom derived from experience; and another feature we might call "indeterminacy," a kind of preservative against sudden extinction. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for any expatriate who finds his way of conversing with the world confined to the page: orality, that "told out loud" quality of so many stories and novellas, from Robert Louis Stevenson ("the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island"), to the Russian masters ("each of us in turn had to tell something fantastic from his own life," begins Nikolai Leskov), and beyond.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Saturday, March 23, 2013
A scenario charged with appearances and a certain sense of wonder—that's where I want to begin this inquiry, recognizing that the men who hold sway On the Rez (2000) and across the Infinite West (2012), like their predecessors in “Indian Warning,” cannot help but regard the Other, to some degree, with ambivalence, that “troubled dream” which haunts Conrad, Naipaul, and Homi Bhabha’s other exemplars. I am to examine the traveler’s gaze, then, and also to show, as David Spurr has done in reference to Bhabha with The Rhetoric of Empire (1993), that such “terms of authority, once given voice, are far from having a direct and unambiguous effect”; that “colonial discourse in general is, at some level, always divided against itself”; and that this quality might even grant the postcolonial travelogue a measure of redemption.
|On the left: Ian Frazier and Fraser Harrison|
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
... There is talk of lightening ...For more from this whiskey-friendly consortium, consider subscribing, buying a good book by a friend of this blog, or reading some of the journal's fine fiction in The Best American Short Stories 2012.