Friday, January 4, 2008
I was considering writing a New Year meta-letter reflecting on nine months of posts, on such topics as whether there is a provisional “answer” to my “question” in the right column; the scarcity of the first person in these writings; mixed feelings about their relative restraint and polish; the sense I can’t shake that optimally, ideas in this format should be created for this format (so that it seems not enough to have had ideas in some other place I was and write them here, but rather that I need extra ideas beside any others I might have had), etc. And I’m still considering it. Briefly: wanting a space to be deliberately less than other spaces (less weighty, less read if not less written, less determined) is almost indistinguishable from wanting it to be more. And if my hopes for this lessness get too developed, they actually become more prescriptive than my hopes in other areas where I expect “more.” The idea was to leave things for others to pick up or not, and notice how often it doesn’t make any difference. It is literally true that it doesn’t make any difference. But instead I often hope for nothing, which is a hope that’s sure to be defeated. Not only has there been little first person, there’s been no second person, except in comments-and-countercomments initiated by a particular person who can be addressed individually. That’s been deliberate, because the overuse of a rhetorical second person in many blogs is glaring—“you,” and more strongly, “everybody,” as in “OK, everybody . . .,” get hailed hopefully, as the writer fears lack of audience most of all. Casual language is part of that: the meaning of “OK, these are just a bunch of thoughts but I’ll post them anyway, here goes” is mostly: Anyone who talks like this must be speaking to a group, as you can see. And this rhetoric of the largeness of the group stands in for the phobia that no one is there at all--not really there. The trompe-l’oeil of Work Without Dread is, rather, negative-theological: it’s “Reader, I’ll never call you ‘Reader,’ but I’ll hint that you don’t need to reveal yourself, and thereby that you exist; your nonappearance will never be able to prove your nonexistence, so it’ll often be as though you were there, but only as though; and you’ll have none of the disadvantages of presence or absence.” This fantasy is important for writing; all writing, by which I mean the possibility of any writing, gives access to it and to its momentary relief-effect from society. Those of us who have it, like to write a lot, we just can’t get enough, it’s very easy, and that’s a secret that people who are pained by the lack, or possible lack, of audience never get to know. The best thing you can do to produce writing is to feel the extent to which it is not a mode of communication. We couldn’t live without the possibility of noncommunication, and, though it may never really be lost, writing instantly and blissfully gives its knowledge back to us. In practice, though, and in a way that may be especially clear in this format, and which I’d like to follow up on in future, the main thing about you, reader, is that you’re there. That it’s not up to me to do anything in particular about that—that’s what’s so hard to understand.