Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Uses and Abuses of 9/11 for Literature

Part 3: The undesired story continues

After the seeming disinterest in the first two posts, I thought maybe the issue was dead. And even I wondered what I meant in the latter, claiming the exhaustion of the event through images, its inaccessibility in words. I had typical doubts about if there was something meaningful in what I'd said. But today, the poignancy again appears to me, not necessarily in my words, which I freely admit flounder, but in the exigency TO say something.

A word on Claire Messud's book, The Emperor's Children (2005): an abuse of the event. The deus ex machina to solve a narrative that bent towards an uninteresting, messy conclusion. How it has gotten such glowing reviews still fools me. Even the people who like the critical perspective on literary culture must have been baffled by the ending. That is, if they'd had any sense. Essentially, my reaction is, that September 11th can't serve as a solution to a narrative. Lots of things ended that day. Narratives were totally over at that point. That is one of the fascinating, bizarre elements of September 11th. Fuck, all of us had read about historical discontinuities, but to live through one! (And yet, it seems vital to equally emphasize the continuities ....) But one can't help to conclude as well, perhaps the conviction that the event isn't ready for literature provokes my response.

This blog entry from the nytimes.com on the stories of September 11th (pathologically, I've insisted on calling it such, rather than the pedestrian 9/11, which I take great umbrage to, despite my title): "The Thing about these 9/11 Stories." Go read it if you haven't already, but in particular consider the readers' responses, which oscillate between self-righteous disgust and sympathetic appreciation. I suppose ultimately, having read the whole, I appreciated it. The fact is, this event will become dinner conversation. Which is not to say the dinner conversation will then idly turn to French wines with similar levity. Yet, when the date arrives, I can't help feeling offended, upset, even by the memorials devoted thereto. Something about doing justice, I think, pathetically.

A use for September 11th? Isn't a use merely an abuse of September 11th?

I hate the words. And this is a hatred I'm not afraid of expressing. All the rest are contempt surrounding inadequacy or powerlessness, on whatever level of consciousness. This too, likely. But I am comfortable with it.

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