Saturday, April 11, 2015

excerpts from reviews of a book that is a diary about a diary...

There's this idea that no doubt still has currency with at least some people, the axiom that those who can do and that those who can't review. 

But criticism, however low the lows it may descend to, retains a peculiar value.  A person can't go and watch every movie or read every book and there are times when reading reviews and criticism can give a person an opportunity to, to go with this weekend's possible motif, vicariously engage material. 

If we live in an era of blogging then we can live in an era which blogging is about "my journey" and "my journey" can end up being put under the microscope.  Sounds like there's at least one book out there which is ... well ... :

 
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2015/03/ongoingness_by_sarah_manguso_reviewed.single.html
...  Self-indulgent” can mean many different things in writing that centers on the self. It’s either a flaw or a lifeline, depending on who’s tapping the keys. And Manguso shows flashes of attentive brilliance. But on the whole Ongoingness, being, after all, a diary about a diary, feels like a new kind of self-indulgent altogether: a hall of mirrors with capacity for one. Manguso imagines at one point that “all anxiety might derive from a fixation on moments—an inability to accept life as ongoing.” It might also derive from a basic unwillingness to accept that freeform thoughts are not all equally interesting, no matter how elegant and raw.

Not everyone seemed to have the same take-away.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/06/dear-diary-i-hate-you
...
But she seems genuinely not proud of the diary. “There’s no reason to continue writing other than that I started writing at some point—and that, at some other point, I’ll stop,” she writes. Looking back at entries fills her with embarrassment and occasionally even indifference. She reports that, after finding that she’d recorded “nothing of consequence” in 1996, she “threw the year away.”

Nothing of consequence, eh?  Long ago in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, one character told another that you can better rid yourself of grief by expressing it and the reply to that was that it was also possible by giving words to your grief you could make it all the worse.  A paradox of discontent is that it can be all the worse if you express it in words.  Or as Ecclesiastes put it so gloomily with more wisdom comes more vexation and this too is vanity.

Rather than a protection against time, the diary becomes a cruelly accurate gauge of time’s passage.
...
She has written the memoir we didn’t realize we needed. 

Yes, well, one of the beauties of the role criticism can play is that reading about a book can help you realize that you actually don't need that memoir and don't need to read it. :)

What if we play with the idea that nobody ever ultimately writes for the self.  All writing is an attempt to communicate to someone else.  You write for yourself and, even then, you are writing for another person.  You may write so that who you think you are can communicate with the you that you feel you are, or vice versa.  But in some way all writing is done for someone else, even if that someone else is a part of you.
 

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