What Isn't There Now?
Those of us who are practitioners live in interesting times. Writing now is like doing laps without a pool. Maybe we wail in an aesthetic void or shout in a black hole, life’s empty or dense; we can’t know what we’re in––fish probably don’t know they’re in water (who can be certain, though). But uncertainty is not the same as ignorance, it may point toward other registers of meaning, other articulations. Complacency is writing’s most determined enemy, and we writers, and readers, have been handed an ambivalent gift: Doubt. It robs us of assurance, while it raises possibility.
Fiction is the enemy of facts, facts are not the same as truths. Fiction is inimical to goals, resistant to didacticism, its moralities question morality, its mind changes, while explanations crash and burn, mocking explicability. Fiction also claims that seeming lies can be true, because everything we say and don’t say, know and don’t know, tells and reveals. Novels and stories are not training manuals, their “information” is gleaned by readers in their terms and for their own uses, often not easily comprehended in part or whole, or never. Knowing the plot of Oedipus Rex, say, doesn’t change its powerful effects, for its enunciation of the unspeakable, the way it’s written and its evocation of the mystery and tragedy of human desire overwhelm any one of its parts. A great story is necessarily greater than its plot.
Call these statements a polemic or rant or partial theoretical background to my own writing, my catholic or promiscuous inclinations. I’m for generative types of contemporary writing, not proscriptions about writing. I don’t have a secure of immovable position, my various notions on writing might include contradictions, I’m sure they do. I don’t want to take A Position. Not taking a position is a position that acknowledges the inability to know with absolute surety, that says: Writing is like life, there are many ways of doing it, survival depends on flexibility. Anything can be on the page. What isn’t there now?
[Lynne Tillman, “Doing Laps Without a Pool”]