This post signals what I hope will be a new direction, or at least a new emphasis, in what I write. Hence, the new and more colorful design!
I happened to run into an essay the other day by one of seven inaugural Norman Mailer fellows who spent a month in Provincetown attending seminars in Mailer’s house, established as a writer’s colony after his death in 2007. The article was mostly about the difficulty of writing in the great man’s house, until a nearly extraneous event that reminded her that we all live, write and die, freed her to work again.
Amy Rowland’s insight was striking and the piece is good, but what struck me were some comments that were almost incidental. At the time Mailer was writing some of his most important works, she notes, readers looked for political and ethical truths in fiction. Today, she writes:
…intellectual influence has became the domain of nonfiction. People want first person “true” narratives of war or politics or adventure. And many fiction writers, like many Americans, feel politics is a degrading form of engagement. The irony is that we celebrate reality over fiction at a time when truth has never been more manipulated.
That aside came at a time when I’ve wondered again what I’m doing on this blog and whether I should be writing one at all. I’m still undecided, but no matter what I finally do, I want, for now, to change its theme and intention.
I’ve avoided talking about politics, though I’ve had quite a lot to say about the culture. I haven’t stayed away from politics because it’s degrading—although God knows it is—but because there are so many people writing what I would write and doing a wonderful job of it. Most of the time I would be, at best, redundant. But as depressing as politics has become, it’s also more critical than ever. I don’t know whether or not the public has ever looked to fiction for insights into politics and ethics, but I do know that novels, paintings, music—all of the arts—are needed more than ever. The superficiality of our current political arguments is almost as grotesque as their ugliness and, as I complained in a post of some months ago, the very notion of truth seems to me to be in danger. Perhaps, and maybe it’s only a hope, fiction and all the arts can dig deep and bring light and air to the rot in our intellectual bedrock, and help us reshape and rebuild our culture. It’s what Obama seemed to be about but, as he always said, we are the ones that must make change happen.
I want this blog to be about artists who are doing that, whether they’re old or young. And while I occasionally try to give voice to the aged among us, I think the most important thing people my age can do is keep trying to make the world better for those who are coming after us.