Monday, November 30, 2009

Motive for Metaphor

For years my appetite for fiction, once prodigious, has diminished, and in recent months, in reaction to what Wallace Stevens called "the pressure of reality," it has vanished altogether. Give me facts, give me philosophy; for the time being fantasy repels. I haven't read or seen, much less enjoyed, a story, novel, or film in months, but have I lived? Oh yes, I've lived a great deal these few months, for better and worse.

Intellectually I still see Aristotle's famous point that history merely deals in particulars, whereas poetry at its greatest deals in universals. However, there are stretches in life in which one is so bound by the brambles of particulars that universals are like the dark side of the moon. And fiction is, after all, a species of lying, that propensity that most distinguishes humanity from the other animals.

Fiction is a luxury of civilization, to be relished only so long as no barbarians are banging on the gates. But barbarians infiltrate the citadel all the time, one is never wholly safe...Even now I'm not sure whether art intensifies life or merely offers an escape therefrom.


Retriever said...

I love the particulars. Tho, in youth, I loved arguing over the universals.

Good post. I should read more fiction as I had dumb reasons in youth (and thereafter) for reading mostly non-fiction. Chiefly that fiction was a guilty pleasure, when there was so much "real" to be studied. On the other hand, non-fiction gets outdated regularly, whereas some fiction is timeless. Hmmm

What I keep looking for is decent poetry, but most of the modern stuff repels me. I wish Plath had lived. Imagine what she might have written, if so. Am sick of rereading my old standbys, so back to just non-fiction also.

Taking all my blurry photos has helped me appreciate really good photography. Now, as when a kid, I am happy as a pig in clover with a copy of National Geographic. There was an image in one recently of a praying mantis that had just caught and begun to eat a hummingbird ten times its size. Horrific, but so real and quite eerily beautiful. Truth stranger than fiction.

Novalis said...

I have to agree with you on poetry--I can't find any more recent than the 60's that excites me.