Thursday, March 6, 2008

Novel Novels

Call them obitchuaries... The articles about someone's death that show up at the funeral in a gothic costume and cry out "I'm so glad your dead." And drop some wilted flowers on the grave. OK so a friend fed me on super hero movies last night. Blame netflicks.

Les Gommes is my favorite. (Of the novels, not the super hero films.) Le Voyeur is also excellent. What Robbe-Grillet can teach us, in the present, is how to focus with obsessive attention on description and detail, and let the observer figure ot what is the emotional substance. It's a lesson that could be well learned for acting in a VR, because emoting something like

/me thinks about how the particles are ebbing back and forth in an annoying fashion.

Isn't going to arouse anyone. The contra-novelistic style, the repetition of objective descriptions, is our world in SL. How many affairs have begun on the endless loop repetition of ballroom 1, with the variation coming form only the shifting of point of view and the thin line of dialog? Robbe-Grillet's world, is more like ours than we might suspect.

Stephen Marche has written an obitchuary on Alain Robbe-Grillet. I like the novels of Robbe-Grillet, but agree with Marche's assessment of what can be called a false purism of construction. While denying that a novel should have a philosophy, he very much puts forward a philosophy of novels. It's one that is applicable to VR:

The two strands of postwar literary fiction, the ultraradical and the willfully archaic, are both antithetical to the spirit of the novel itself, which is polyglot and unpredictable. Novels are supposed to be messy. They are written to express ideals and to make money; they steal from everything and everyone, high, middle and low, belonging to everyone and no one in the same moment. They don't fit anyone's conception. That's why we love them.

It's here, in a positive statement, that I find myself nodding my head in agreement with Marche. The problem with avantie gestures and stances, is that it isn't accurate. Second Life isn't populated by people who are too smart for the real world, while some of them are, but people who see... something, and often they are not quite sure what. The problem with avant-garde as a notion then, is that it implies a kind of person who isn't present in the edge of society.

The term, of course, is an implication that there are people who live in the future, and that they are like the forward guard of a vast army marching in revolution. I'm suspicious of military metaphors, because an army doesn't bring life, but death. It is, by it's nature, and adjunct to a living growing society, or the doom of one. Often the society that created it. Instead, I think that colonizer and frontier metaphors are better. That Secodn Life is "A City on the Edge of Forever." Not populated by barrel chested men out of soviet socialist realism with their upstanding hardened wives, but by people who are bit by bit trying to raise a continent of activity.

This is, necessarily, a messy activity. It necessarily steals from every place.

[While writing this, I had a very avantie moment, the writer of Robbe-Grillet's obituary for the Guardian died after writing it, probably it had been mostly written years before. What tells me this is that it mentions a last work, which, of course, was no longer the last work, but no one checked that at the time. The modern novel is filled with people doing things automatically and then putting them into the system and letting it run. So a living man wrote an obituary of a living man that was accurate, and the dead man writing about a dead man was inaccurate... The mistake was made in something that was not done, namely checking the file copy of the obituary before running it. We don't know who didn't make this mistake... It's a very modern moment...]

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