David Foster Wallace once said in an interview:
Look, man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the time’s darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.
I’ve never read Infinite Jest or any of his other work (though I bought the book for my brother for his birthday one year, the consummate, voracious reader he is: follow him on Goodreads and read his review of Infinite Jest) but I agree with Wallace’s statement. And though parts of The Great Chaining of Being may be dark or cynical, the glue that holds its historical fragments together is enthusiasm. This is never a sappy enthusiasm, nor is it always a happy one, but it’s an insatiable drive most of the characters have towards dispelling their dissatisfaction with the world as is. Seeing as most of them are poets, philosophers, playwrights, actors, activists, and bohemians, they’re just following their natural course.
Renee Winegarten in Writers and Revolution: The Fatal Lure of Action, says that among the most powerful motives Lord Byron possessed for his actions was dissatisfaction with himself and with the world—that he had not fulfilled his capabilities and potentialities, and that only some bold, grand gesture of defiant service could redeem him.
After all, Byron invented the estranged hero. He showed his readers, many of them unhappy spirits, what looked like a way out of the impasse of boredom, dissatisfaction, self-loathing, and an intractable world, a path to purification and redemption of a kind through commitment to the revolutionary cause. He died of disease during the Greek War of Independence at age 36, outlasting Keats and Shelley.
Check out more at: Hark! A Vagrant!
And now for a quote from my novel completely out of context, though the characters be the Apollonian Ambrose Gaston, and the Dionysian Dennis Baker:
Dennis laughs, and finishes the cognac. “My god, what sort of monster would we make brought together in one body. Lord Byron?”
“Please, he’s far too stupid.”
“Oh-ho-ho, I’m going to tell him that at the party.”
“So now you’re going?”
“Only for the drugs, Ambie—the drugs!”
“I liked you better as a decadent.”
“And French, and writing, and licking your balls.”
As you might imagine, my novel contains certain crudities to remain historically accurate to figures such as the horny as an incubus Henry Miller, the religious criminal Jean Genet, and the duel-loving pornographer Guillaume Apollinaire. Many of them far rival “licking your balls”. Especially where the Marquis de Sade is involved.
Henry Miller: “Now we shall have a vessel in which to pour the vital fluid, a bomb which, when we throw it, will set off the world. We shall put into it enough to give the writers of tomorrow their plots, their dramas, their poems, their myths, their sciences. The world will be able to feed on it for a thousand years to come. It is colossal in its pretentiousness. The thought of it almost shatters us.” (Tropic of Cancer)
Jean Genet: Check out more artwork from Edward Kinsella
Guillaume Apollinaire: “Pity us who fight always at the boundaries
But this isn’t the transgressive splatterpunk of Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk, this takes a bit more patience and poetic inspiration, and a lot more research. Being sexually crude or shocking fits into the ethos of Courbet and Baudelaire, after all to be part of the French avant-garde from the 1830s on is to: Épater la bourgeoisie!
|The Burial at Ornans, by Gustave Courbet. Can you imagine that this was one of Courbet’s most shocking and offensive paintings? Times sure have changed.|
But we’re all quite unshockable nowadays are we not? Shall I test this?
No, I am not so cruel. After all, one day soon you will read my novel, and you will see the beauty in sexual explicitness, psychedelic hallucination, avant-garde arrogance, burning dissatisfaction, and global protest.
When Antonin Artaud, the madman actor, surrealist, pyschonaut, and playwright (who has a supporting role in my novel) was asked why he’d called his esoteric, experimental form of ideal form of theater: The Theater of Cruelty. He calmly replied it certainly isn’t to be cruel.