willingly we are duped and learn to suspect any language that tempts
too comfortably our belief.
. . .
The literature of possibility: There is another, maybe more
hopeful, approach for the conscientious writer to his ambiguous calling.
Just as language can be understood as reflective of actual things,
people, events, however tenuously, it can also be understood as projective,
as subjunctive - under the sign, not of the real, but of the possible.
What is usually called "literature" (poetry, fiction, etc.) is especially
well-placed to pursue the subjunctive in the broadest sense: it can
be an exploration, not only of the practically possible (the purview
of "realism"), but more interestingly, I think, of the logically or
linguistically possible such as can be found in the writings of Gertrude
Stein, of the Russian novelist
Andrei Biely, of Joyce, the surrealist novels of the 20s, the explorations
of Borges, Garcia Marquez, and the Latin American poets and novelists,
the nouveau roman of the 50s and 60s, the postmodern fictions
of Gaddis and Pynchon, the Bay Area language poets and writers of
the 70s, and so on.
There are those who, for whatever reason, reject these "literary experiments"
or believe that the period for them is substantially over; that the
approach of literary modernism has been tried and found wanting by
most readers. But I think this is untrue: what is occurring now~a
cultural reaction to the literary modernists and their followers (see,
for example, the attacks on such works as "The Waste Land" and Ulysses
by Christopher Hitchens, Jonathan Franzen's notorious attack in
the New Yorker on William Gaddis, or B. R. Meyer's provocative
A Reader's Manifesto)~is simply another instance of culture