The Helpless Art

So, mastering the craft obscures writing’s helplessness, except you didn’t mention metaphor, perhaps because it is the unextended mode of allegory, and you’re interested in allegory, aren’t you? Metaphor casts flickering light on dependence while heightening singularity and presence with borrowed meaning, while allegory hypostatises metaphor, is a sun burning through stained glass. That’s why you cite Kafka, isn’t it? Yet the vast majority of readers and writers know that writing’s helplessness is its greatest strength; it’s a miraculous window on the world where no window would otherwise exist. Metaphor refines our vision and makes writing not only helpful but necessary to illuminate, to separate and to connect. Otherwise, without writing, while the world would stand before us plain as day, we would see only universal night. And anyway, Kafka despairs of writing in his diary, a wastebasket for words slung into the air last thing in the evening, words he never dreamed would be published. He published contra despair. Kafka is right only if you resist connections, fixate upon isolation (“I’m much worse than Kaspar Hauser. I’m as lonely as … as Franz Kafka”) and ignore the foundations of your very ability to despair. You can’t bypass the paradox by satisfying a sententious reality hunger by, say, dispensing with craft to write a novel in the form of an inventory.

More food for thought at This Space.

As to my own part, I prefer to believe that writing is the world. Not, or course, the world of walls that I can’t walk though and fires that will burn my flesh, but the world insofar as I exist within it and perceive it in my own way.

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