Thomas Jefferson, remix artist? Well, yes. Fragmentation and recombination are natural features—and unavoidable consequences—of language use, and the Declaration of Independence is a remarkable remix of ideas, a crosshatch of interconnected and often competing influences. What might an investigation of the Declaration tell us about the internet, Reality Hunger, and collage as a literary form?
“Character is action.” “You are what you do.” These adages are behaviorist: they imply that identity is reducible to externally observable data. They argue that the question of who we are—always the topic, in some sense, of literary fiction—is answerable in terms of the impact our actions have on the world around us. Like the ubiquitous Show, don’t tell, they take a common problem and offers an overcorrection. They advise us to steer into the skid of interiority, bringing the story out of a character’s mind and into the external narrative world. Furthermore, such thinking is corrosive to the very moments in literature I find most compelling, moving, and meaningful. They repress the particular species of felt experience I hunger for as a reader, and which I seek to capture in my own work.
According to the Weekly World News, I am writing on the verge of apocalypse and this blog post will never be read. The nineteenth of December: two days until we reach the terminus of the ancient Mayan calendar and find ourselves ushered into a future better left to the imagination of Roland Emmerich. Or Nancy Lieder. Or John of Patmos. Or whomever. Apocalypses come and go, and if some prophets, like the Revelator or Nostradamus, achieve a more lasting fame than others, it seems to have little to do with their accuracy as doomsayers. What’s worth noting about our latest onrushing apocalypse, however, is just how timely it seems.
“What if, looking at those ducklings, we saw not some reflection of human bravery, some mental state for which we already have the words, here and now, in our gas-guzzling postindustrial lives? What if, instead, we recognized the ducklings’ abandon, as Wendell Berry calls it—the wordless, mindless, absolute passion with which the need to leave the nest has been not merely accepted, but embraced?”
The 2012 education platform released by the Republican Party of Texas last summer contains more than just a troubling attack on critical thinking skills in the classroom. Considered in a broad historical context, the GOP’s platform lays bare fundamental inconsistencies in the conservative thought that birthed it. The product of a grossly divided intellectual legacy, it represents an extraordinary cheapening of our American heritage.