What kind of a person does Theory make? What did it once mean to have read theorists? What does it mean now? How does Theory help you hold a job? Deal with lovers, children, bosses, and parents? Decide between the restricted alternatives of adulthood? If novelistic realism aspires to be a history of the present, that present now includes — in the educations of writers themselves — the Theory that relegates novelistic realism to the past.
“The world, unfortunately, is real, and I, unfortunately, am Borges.” - Jorge Luis Borges
After the jump, check out Borges’ last recorded words spoken in English. These illuminations on writing, book collecting, academia, life and death, were captured by George Watson during a talk at Cambridge in 1984 and were contextualized and printed in The American Scholar this past Summer.
Now we live in the kingdom of fact: of information and the means to gather it, but also, more recently, of personal narrative and the means to disseminate it. Social media, webcams, YouTube (“Broadcast Yourself”)—but even before all that, the confessionality of daytime talk shows. Hence we’ve also come to live in the age of memoir. Fiction is still prominent but under increasing commercial and ideological attack
Fiction: The House at Belle Fontaine
“Who would guess that something like that would happen to us? We were so happy, so … ” Monsieur Rossier searches for a word, “so united. And life never seemed quite the same after that, for my wife and me.”
Click here for author Lily Tuck’s full story.
A father spies on his young son in an effort to better understand him, in Bradford Tice’s “The Art of Human Surveillance,” from our fiction section:
I keep a safe distance from Win. On a day-to-day basis, Win mostly explores, and I begin to remember my own youth when every corner, hidey-hole, and shaded place grew pregnant with mystery and novelty. Win knows the neighborhood, the network of drainage tunnels. I watch him slink through these ditches, ducking his head under the corrugated steel, only to emerge on the far side with wet shoes and cobwebs in his hair.
He was nursing yesterday’s adventure—pleasure and bruises. He wanted to see her again, to find a way through her armor, down to the honest if mistaken core that drove her candid tongue, to be her full confessor, to share the weight of her past, even if it stained him. Today his sense of worth seemed tied to her, resting on her approval, her friendship, her admiration of his intellect as a peer.
These grown-up children—it was like discovering a new tribe, somewhere deep in the interior, one with a whole set of skills you had never acquired. There they all were, going steadily about their business, sending text messages, knitting sweaters, eating raw fish.
….She pictured her own daughter: a sweet-faced young woman with shiny hair, working in the development office at a museum, listening intently over miso soup. Or maybe tall and skinny, boldly transgressive, with spiky bleached hair, red high-top sneakers. Offhand, cool. In a rock band. Still, she’d be a friend. She’d teach Anne the difference between good and bad rap. Or whatever it was now.
One day, Dinah had arrived home from school and her mother’s things were gone. Clothes gone. Bible gone. And gone was the embroidered runner Mama kept on her vanity, along with the jars of Noxema and Jergen’s lotion and her bottle of lily of the valley cologne, her silver-backed brush, and the Breck shampoo bottle from the side of the bathtub. Where were all of Mama’s things, Dinah had wondered. And where was Mama herself? Dinah’s father didn’t make it possible to voice either question.