Anne Carson writes that prose is a house and poetry is the man on fire running through it. I think we managed to convince ourselves that movies can be that house, when really it’s more of an Airbnb. Checking into an Airbnb for the weekend is not the same as living in a house. While you are physically inside of a home, it is temporary, it is free of obligation aside from the implicit agreement that you will effectively not be the man on fire running through it. But owning a home requires sustained and incremental effort: you need to pay the bills, you need to maintain your property. And with that dedication comes intimacy: it’s your house. It’s the place you return to again and again.
In his manifesto Reality Hunger, David Shields uses assemblage to curate a dialogue about the limits of The Real. The voices he appropriates and sequences implicitly argue that our increasingly urgent twenty-first century desire for reality is compromised by the fact that our storytelling mechanisms are growing further from it. As Shields notes (without acknowledging in the text proper that he is parroting E. L. Doctorow), “There’s no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there’s only narrative.”
Some may be surprised to hear this position. After all, I harangued writers for over-relying on the small-talk topic of “What have you been reading?” Hopefully, this contradiction goes away by the end of my defense.
In her well-known TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie argues for the importance of a multiplicity of stories, voices, and perspectives in order to do justice to the fullest range of experience and explode reductive stereotypes of people and places. “Stories matter,” she says. “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and malign. But stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
“I’m excited for the food movement: It’s a really special time, seeing organic and local is trendy across an array of social groups and age levels. It’s been wild watching the hype grow as I’ve made my way around the country. Many of these individuals are not super informed on the reasons to choose organic and local–that, to me, is systematic change. You don’t need reasons to choose organic and local, you eat what tastes better.”