“Is there an art that is dangerous? Yes. It is that art which upsets the conditions of life.”–Charles Baudelaire.
What are the conditions of life? Simply put: that which sustains it.
Does art sustain life? Does literature? Does poetry? No. None of those practices are required to sustain life. And we are better off for it. For who would want to rely on failure for sustenance? And yet, that is precisely what we have today. Failure. And lots of it. And that’s a good thing–for the arts and for life. Precisely because the very conditions that sustain life require failure in the realm of the arts.
I always think of him as the King of experimental form—and from some interviews in the past, thought he had a serious attitude about it. This short story brings to mind people finding Jesus later in life or something—that’s how radically different it is from what I know of his oeuvre. Here’s a link to an interview about his New Yorker story. Regardless, I loved the story; it was hilarious, brilliantly so. Mean and funny. Good stuff. Before this story, I found his work impenetrable.
After seeing today’s cloudburst in New York City tear down a huge tree, snap it into splinters, this definition of “rain”, found in Ben Marcus’s The Age of Wire and String (I’m rereading it, now), strikes me as apt:
Writing the title of this post actually felt very silly; it seems such an arbitrary way of gathering a list of writers to look out for. What could be sillier than singling out writers in this way, according to their age? Surely, there are more worthy criteria. Well, there is an answer to what could be sillier than singling out over forty writers over forty to watch, namely, singling twenty writers under forty to watch, especially largely mainstream writers writing, for the most part, conventional and redundant fiction. And the New Yorker has done just that. But this isn’t surprising. Theirs is an idea once again institutionalizing, reinforcing our decayed culture’s obsession with youth, not to mention its eyes wide shut wallowing in mediocrity. So, not only have they missed, for the most part, who are the best fiction writers under forty to watch, but, with their unapologetic valorization of youth, they missed entirely. The following writers (and I include poets, essayists, and theorists among them) are writers who have consistently written great work. I anticipate great things from each of them in the years and years to come. With full awareness of how a corrective sometimes ironically and paradoxically legitimizes what it seeks to correct, here, in the order in which I thought of them, are over forty writers over forty whose work I will be busy watching.
“Every word was once an animal.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
RHETORIC The art of making life less believable; the calculated use of language, not to alarm but to do full harm to our busy minds and properly dispose our listeners to a pain they have never dreamed of.
–From Ben Marcus’s The Age of Wire and String.