Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Long Sentence

In Ron Silliman's Ketjak, there is at least one reference that I understood to mean: can this work and be important as art while being tedious and very needless and unnecessary to read? The poem's construction largely growing from repetition perhaps causes the reader to have such a thought while reading it--and this was the brilliance of much of it, the way the poem might predict your mind thinking, while reading it--and so Silliman doubles down on this opportunity to admit a self-criticism in the work--by golly y'all are going to be bored somewhere in this deriving poem going on for a hundred pages--while also perhaps creating a very interesting connection between the reader and writer. All analysis aside, I have grown to return to Silliman's assertion--truthfully asked as a question if I remember correctly, so perhaps I should say my assertion, which is an answer of "yes" to that question--that we can view what is essentially too long to be interesting or what is mundane for aesthetic or other reasons to be considered important or noteworthy art. While reading a collection Harvey Pekar's American Splendor comic books I returned to this mindset as I have several times with Nicholson Baker's contemplation of the trivial. As one might consider from both the URL and title of this blog, I would consider much of my own thought in this category as well; for the purposes of this post, however, I considered it important to note all this. To establish a mood before sending you into one long sentence that, while perhaps too long to be interesting, derives its very importance from its length.

For a while now, I've been considering how best to present my comparison of the long, creeping, vertiginous  sentences in Joan Didion's Miami (meanings shuffled, objects and subjects interrupted--she appears to have waged a war on her grammar, not breaking rules but skirting their goal of clarity, beautifully showing a violent, tense feeling of rewrite within her very diction) with the equally lengthy and vertiginous-at-times but much more trivial and mundane (meant in the best way possible) sentences of Nicholson Baker in Room Temperature; for Baker this fit very much with his character--someone who writes a novel about twenty minutes in a narrator's life might be expected to use long sentences--but for Didion this was not something I had at least knowingly experienced before, it appears to me as if she picked this rhetorical device simply to portray how clumsy and complicated the reality she described truly is; reflected in the very title itself, Miami is a book, and a city, that is largely about Cuba and Washington, or perhaps Havana and Washington if we want to have a city and a city, with the specter of Moscow, for example, as the main issue is Havana's communist status, Miami Cubans extreme disapproval of such, and Washington's inability to really thrust its way into this debate without drawing international attention--all of that beautifully and more smartly written in a 230-odd-page study that I might term journalistic were I not consider it oddly in direct opposition to parts of journalism, for example, the temporality: Miami is considering years where I feel the word journalism dictates an assumption of timeliness, taking about days and weeks and yet the book is not best referred to as non-fiction, if only because Didion will come to write her novels in very much the same way, so noting a difference between her fiction and non-fiction would be counter-intuitive, just like writing about sentences is, since you can't call them anything but sentences, especially if you are writing about long sentences, since you wouldn't want to call them terms or phrases since you are noting their length, so your description of long sentences can turn into a long, repetitive description in its own way (of "sentences" and "sentences" and "sentences"); I am saying, then, that the topic of the long sentence is an indefinite aid in the creation of a long sentence, another being the inclusion perhaps as an ending to said sentence of a quote that is in itself a long sentence and perhaps even on the relevant subject of anything relating to the long sentence, like this example--which is actually not overly long on average for Baker in the novel--from Room Temperature: "In our desire for provincial correctness and holy-sounding simplicity and the rapid teachability of intern copy editors we had illegalized all variant forms--and, as with the loss of subvarieties of corn or apples, this homogenization of product was accomplished at a major unforeseen cost: our stiff-jointed prose was less able, so I now huffily thought, full of vengeance against the wrong I had done my mother, to adapt itself to those very novelties of social and technological life whose careful interpretation and weighing was the principle reason for the continued indispensability of the longer sentence" (71).

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