Bellow writing in the ‘60s about the well of literary estrangement running dry. Saul, that is. That was then—what of now? Well, now, is there any room for it at all? Everyone and no one is estranged. Every group, every clique, every niche of every corner has a brandable identity sewn on like logos on sport jerseys with a name and number on the back. Estrangement is itself a trope, dispersal of the “trope” label being yet another trope employed by the commentator trope who may or may not have studied Levi-Strauss and friends and either way recognizes opportunities for appropriation to support his/her discourse.
We’re estranged from real estrangement, I’d argue, maybe from real anything, swimming in farce and copy—this is me on a “thinking” day. As I write this, I think about who will read it and I imagine what you’ll think about what I’ve written and what I’ve said I’m thinking. How can you really know? How can I and what does it make of us? There’s nothing left to be, not even oneself, I’d venture, no language for the extraordinary that isn’t essentially incomprehensible—it’s all taken and typified, from estrangement to subordinacy, and status is determined not so much by the re-accumulation of all the digestible bits we break ourselves into but by their proliferation and multiplication, to the point of a surrogate mass of unequally distributed selfhoods.
That’s awfully dismal, though, isn’t it. All I really want to know is: How does one escape The Audience and all the audiences before which one performs, whether willingly, unwillingly, or without even realizing it, to no longer be a thing propped up by certain expectations, whether precise or vague, no longer an item (or an array of items), a type, a voice, a commodity besieged by offers and reactions and experiences and reactions with offers for experiences presented to us as appeals to the not-so-private desires and inclinations we and our thing-nesses quantifiably demonstrate as we inhabit various tiers of statistically-informed categorizations. Sorry, that started as a question and trailed off into an assertion.
Which reminds me of the age-old question-statement likely first posed by some ancient-timer with long hair and robes and bare feet standing atop a rugged mountain overlooking the arid landscapes of yore “who the fuck cares,” and, in asking-stating it, I become something else, something other than a seeker of estrangements, something not so much set apart as detached, potentially appearing complacent, even, because it can go either way. Saul said think, he did not say brood, and, more than fifty years later, he’s still right that any sort of vanguardism is driven not by socio-historical context, is penned in not by the tropes of estranged genius. It springs from an “inner necessity,” from thinking about our time and what it is we’re doing here being “writer” and “audience,” for instance, thinking about why someone might be compelled to place quotation marks around those words and thereby turn them into terms and have that transformation seem perfectly acceptable, even, perhaps, adroit.
“Where is authenticity?” is a question worn dull from overexposure and over-espousal. We are drowning not so much in abstractions like dullness or dissatisfaction but in ourselves, in our nearly indistinguishable, once all the layers of typification are peeled back, narcissisms. If our faculties of liberation oppress us, do we parody the parody? Do we play naïve and attempt sentimentalistic returns to some prior state of innocence, ignorance, or grace? How do we challenge our time, ourselves, how do we look and what will be our new language of examination? Who the fuck cares? Well, I, for one, for one I am, do, at least when I’m being someone who does.