Last week I declared literature as my religion. This week I'm going to concentrate on how one must practice the literary way of life. As far as I can tell, there is but one great commandment in this way: the literary person must read-against-himself. If you think anything long enough to believe it, and especially if you think it long enough for it to take the shape of human language, rush to the library (or out of it, as the case may be!): find a way to undermine it. Monica probably knows what I'm talking about. To perform this ritual as publically as possible, I offer the following--the image of an arrow aimed directly at the heart of my own, our own, religion:
It's been a while since I've quoted E.M. Cioran (d. 1995), that lyrical Romanian-French philosopher who was too difficult for the academic theory crowd of the 1990s. This one's from his book, The Temptation to Exist, from his chapter, "Beyond the Novel" (translated by American poet, Richard Howard):
That literature should be destined to perish is possible and even desirable. What use is the comedy of our questions, our problems, our anxieties? Would it not be preferable, after all, to orient ourselves toward a condition of automatons? Our crushing individual agonies would be succeeded by mass-produced agonies, uniform and easy to endure; no more original or profound works, no more intimacy, therefore no more dreams and no more secrets. Happiness, misery would lose all meaning, since they would have no place to start from; each of us would at last be ideally null and perfect: no one. (published in 1956)G-d! -- imagine writing that in 1956! Imagine writing not what you believe, but what you doubt, and with conviction. I hope not to meet Cioran in hell.
If you're up for it, check out one of the most unsettling YouTube videos I've ever seen--a sort of homage to Cioran:
(If for some reason that won't play, here's a link to the YouTube page.)