[E]volution actually happened. Biology is incomprehensible without it. There aren’t really two sides to all these issues. Climate change is happening. Vaccines really do save lives. Being right does matter—and the science tribe has a long track record of getting things right in the end.
It’s their very detachment, what you might call the cold-bloodedness of science, that makes science the killer app. It’s the way science tells us the truth rather than what we’d like the truth to be. Scientists can be as dogmatic as anyone else—but their dogma is always wilting in the hot glare of new research. In science it’s not a sin to change your mind when the evidence demands it. For some people, the tribe is more important than the truth; for the best scientists, the truth is more important than the tribe.
Academic scholarship succeeds brilliantly at times because it is disinterested: you need not know why a scientist, for example, is studying fruit flies. But I’m not interested in that kind of work. In my profession, one of the great failings of literary theory has been that the writing is not only impersonal, it also seeks mightily to be free of contradictions. How many university professors do you know who don’t present themselves as unimpeachable authorities? I have made a fairly conscious decision to produce writing that is honest. And even as I say that, I realize that one of the things I try to do is reveal the layers of honesty and dishonesty in what I’m writing.
In response to the question, why a painting and not a photo? Well. A photo is true. But a painting is truer.
The objects don’t tell the whole story though, just as a view through a window doesn’t, or a bookshelf, or any infinite number of Facebook albums– but why are these things so compelling all the same?
I wonder if– outside of fictional realms– such fragments come closer to a kind of truth than anything else can? And I wonder how much of the pleasure lies in making the connections by ourselves.
[F]iction can sometimes be the only way to tell the truth.
Memory is a dream machine. Nonfiction isn’t “true.” It’s a framing device to foreground contemplation, or at least it is in the nonfiction I love the most — nonfiction at the highest reaches of literary art. I want to redefine nonfiction upward — taking nonfiction’s limits and reframing them so that nonfiction can be a serious investigation of what’s “true,” what’s knowledge, what’s “fact,” what’s memory, what’s self, what’s other. I don’t want a nonfiction full of “lies.” I want a nonfiction that explores our shifting, unstable, multiform, evanescent experience in and of the world.
Just some quotes from posts I had bookmarked, which may or may not be useful.
Shirley Jackson might have been a part-time mommy-blogger, had she lived in the internet age. … Life Among the Savages, a memoir of her life raising three small children in Vermont … is a direct ancestor of the current crop of mothering memoirs — someone should put together a history of the genre — and it shares their frequently jokey “if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry” tone, a tone so different from that used in “The Lottery” that I had to check to make sure this was the same Shirley Jackson. The beginning sucked me in completely[.]
The real problem, of course, the real reason why I’m not “squeeing” over BlogHer (ugh, what a word, squee), is that these aren’t really the blogs I read. … BlogHer is a meetup for a particular set of blogging communities, and that’s why people bond and hug and clap and get so emotional. The problem for me is that I read geek blogs and copyright blogs and academic blogs and some politics blogs and some crafts blogs, and those bloggers aren’t at this conference. This conference is for a fairly specific slice of the blogosphere, and I guess it’s not really the slice that I feel at home in.
While the first BlogHer conference, in 2005, seemed to be about empowering women bloggers, today, empowerment appears to be about “look how powerful we are, corporations take us seriously and want to give us free swag!” But of course, if blogging becomes mainly about accepting free swag and loving the corporations, well, that’s not empowerment, that’s more like oppression – a slightly more subtle form of oppression, perhaps, maybe willing oppression. It doesn’t bode well for the power of blogging to actually spread the voices of the people, though, if the people are happy to speak for the corporations.
Honesty – how truthful do you want to be in your blog? There are plenty of examples of fictional blogs that have presented themselves as real. When readers discovered they were fictional, they felt cheated and became very angry (I’ve blogged about why readers get angry at this. On a smaller scale, most bloggers leave out the ugly bits and maybe play up the good stuff, as in the quote from Lars Tangen in this blog post. I’m not saying you need to be utterly honest (in fact, the more literary blogs get, the less factual truth matters, in my opinion, but you do need to think about this.
Dooce.com is now the full time job of both Heather and her husband, Jon. The blog supports an online community and a merchandise store. Heather is the author of a bestselling book, was named by Forbes as one of the 30 most influential women in media in 2009, and just signed an exclusive development deal with HGTV.
In a recent post entitled “Check Up for Self Delusion,” Penelope Trunk, another popular female blogger, recently wrote, “Probably the most accurate representation of women is in the blogosphere. There is no filter here, no need to appeal to both Peoria and Pasadena all at once.” She goes on to compare Dooce.com with an even more popular mommy blog, The Pioneer Woman.
Probably the most accurate representation of women is in the blogosphere. There is no filter here, no need to appeal to both Peoria and Pasadena all at once. But even the whole of the blogosphere does not represent the female experience particularly accurately.
The Pioneer Woman is largely housewife porn. The men are hot and rugged, just like in a romance novel. The author, Ree Drummond, is running an operation similar to Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart, but she markets herself as a stay-at-home mom, and a homeschooler at that. The whole thing strikes me as totally preposterous. … On Dooce, Heather Armstrong blogs about depression, her kids being difficult, and her parents being Mormon. I love Heather Armstrong. But she’s the gold standard for writing a blog about your life and keeping a marriage together, and she is not, actually, writing about the female experience for married women.
I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could. And I long ago came to the conclusion that even if I could put down accurately the thing that I saw and enjoyed it would not give the observer the kind of feeling it gave me. I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at – not copy it.
in Georgia O’Keeffe (1976)
Sometimes the most moving, altering moments of life are in fact only moments. Sometimes they are not destined to be novels, essays, or memoirs. Sometimes, there is no bigger picture. There is only the truth, and all that I know of it barely reaches the two-hundred word mark.
Mood and atmosphere are vital in [Chekhov’s] explorations of emotional dilemma which, at times, border on the abstract. For him, the purpose of art is the depiction of unconditional truth and the pursuit of it; he invariably exposes hypocrisy and deception, most emphatically self-deception. Above all, Chekhov, described by Tolstoy as impressionist, understands compromise, downplays plot and avoids conventional denouement. As a playwright he knew both the risks and the significance of silence on stage, of the pause that articulates truth.