“I feel like most stories are really two stories. In putting those two together, I found the echoes between them. This one is very discernibly two stories. And it means a lot more as the last story of the collection, because then you see that this old Hungarian couple are echoes of my own grandparents, and that this survivor’s guilt the characters feel has a lot to do with mine. Even the little museum that Jed constructs has references to other stories in the collection. Not so overtly that it would be cheesy, but I want the sense that what he’s doing with that museum is what I’m doing with this collection. This sense of being an artist and a survivor in a world where a lot of people don’t make it.”
While one can imagine the lyric impulse of the poem or the meandering logic of the essay easily fits with the notions of doubt and not-knowing, the question lingers: what of fiction, the genre that is conventionally thought of as “plotted”? Should writers of fiction come to a story or narrative with a conceit or concern already crafted, or does writing through, around, and among the consciousnesses, characters, and languages of fiction reveal to these writers their ultimate uptake?
One Sunday at work, in the middle of a series of lectures and panels–a day-long affair with no planned bathroom or coffee breaks–a man stands up. He does so while I am moving a lectern across the stage, and I think recognize him, even before he begins speaking, as someone who lives under the weight of New York City’s constant renovation, someone whose patterns have long ago been papered over. At the institution I work for, a Jewish archive and library whose existence spans nearly a century and two continents, people like this come all the time, or call on the phone. They’ve woken up and started looking, desperately, for places they’ve lost.
In truth, there is probably no real “objectivity” in descriptions, because the minute we choose one word for another, we’ve already exercised a kind of bias. But relatively speaking, we can mimic the human experience by offering a version of alternating objectivity and subjectivity.
“I’m more interested in challenging the broad belief that genre/form categories are solid or important. I consider this the first lesson of art history: there is no platonic form. No novel, or poem, or play (or woman, or white person, if we branch out of the arts). These categories exist as cultural reference points for better and worse, but the fences are arbitrary and constantly shifting.”