26.2.09

If you've read this blog long enough, you'll know that I frequently return to a few key themes - one of which being that there's nothing original left to say or write about anymore.

It's something I try not to think about, something I try really hard to avoid acknowledging, but it just keeps returning ever so often to mock me and taunt me.

And it keeps asking - why, really, do we still write?

Are we trying to explain and describe Love? Lust? Sex? Greed? Betrayal? Despair? War? Marriage? Childhood repression? Struggles against despots? Surviving ethnic cleansing? Living in an alien land? Success despite the odds? Crime? Zombies? Elves and dwarves? Distant planets? Angst-ridden teenagers? The meaning of our existence? The lack of meaning in our existence? How our universe may just be a drop in a gigantic ocean of multi-verses? How there is no god? Or how there is a god and it created the universe as an experiment?

Done, done, and done again.

And done well.

And in different languages.

There is nothing you can pick up to read that somebody else cannot point to have been written before. And yet.....we keep writing. And we keep reading. And the trees, oh the tree, they keep getting murdered.

(A caveat here - I guess I'm really talking about fiction here. New books that are observational and informational non-fiction, those I can understand.)

So what is it? Why do we keep doing this? Why do those of us who do write, write? Why do we work so hard on these stories that we just have to tell? Is it anything more than just clever little nuances of word-arrangements and style-quirks and clever little lines?

And why do those of us who read, read? Why do we hunt down and devour all the "bright new voices" that spurt out onto the scene? Do we really think we're going to find something new that we haven't found before? Do we really believe that there's some new thought out there that nobody's thought of, and which will change the way we see our world? Or has it simply become about how well the person writes, rather than what they write about?

So, at what point does it stop being about the matter and becomes more about the style? If it's just about the latter, then that's fine. Reading Murakami and Keret and Vonnegut for the way they spin their stories is fine. But reading them and believing that they, and others like them, are saying something new and profound and, goodness forbid, wise - well, really now.

Yet, we write and we read. I write and I read.

And perhaps, the answer is because we want...need...the stories.

Because we want to keep understanding all the possible facets of any defined feeling/situation/era. Because we believe there is no absolute answer, and every story we read brings us closer to our version of the truth. Because we need to know we're not alone, and somebody somewhere looks at the world in the way we do. Or doesn't. Because this is the only way we know to live all those lives we haven't, or can't. And because, in the end, we still dream of being four years old and lying curled up somewhere while somebody's describing these wondrous lands and the amazing beings that inhabit them.

So, I write. You read. And when you're done, you can buy me a crate of mangoes.

23 comments:

Shefaly said...

Mangoes, did I hear Mangoes?

??! said...

Shefaly:
You did too. We love mangoes out here.

unpredictable said...

Boss, F^&*%ing brilliant. :)

brinda said...

Why? Just so that once you've eaten up every mango in the crate, you can say, "so long and thanks for all the fruit"? We see through these things, we do.

brinda said...

But I have a case of aamnesia. Will that do?

HP said...

"And perhaps, the answer is because we want...need...the stories."

hmm ... i think i've read this before. On your blog here?? ;)

Mangoes!! *slluurrpp!*

km said...

why, really, do we still write?

Because interpretive dance sucks?

we still dream of being four years old and lying curled up somewhere while somebody's describing these wondrous lands

Amen to that, brother.

Space Bar said...

Ah, a crisis of faith. This is not a mango but hey - there are a couple of months left yet.

The Bride said...

You answered your own question. But that was the point, wasn't it? And you expect mangoes? Hmph!

To add my two cents - the Russian formalists said the purpose of art is to "make the stone stony". It's the best raison d'etre I've come across so far.

This won't apply to detective fiction though. But then, what to do on a rainy day?

??! said...

Unpredictable:
Why thank you, sweet minion.

Brin:
Oho, who said I wouldn't share? We can all sit around, licking mango pulp as it dribbles down our wrists. Ok?

HP/Space:
The links, the links - correct them!

KM/The Bride:
I guess so, good points both.

HP said...

oh sorry. http://thinkwritedo.blogspot.com/2008/11/real-life-is-regularly-running-out-of.html

DewdropDream said...

It's different.

That's why. The same stories may be told again and agian and again but they come out sounding different each time... which is to say, it is comforting to discover that even amid all the commonality of being human, there exists a uniqueness which is quite flattering to every individual.

It's a bit like singing you see. Not everyone can write new songs so they sing the songs of others, cover them, blah di blah... and though it might sound like endless boring repetition, it is still a pleasure (most times) to hear the same refrain time and again.

Space Bar said...

huh? why link didn't happen? here: http://evidenceanecdotal.blogspot.com/2009/02/books-will-find-their-readers.html

Falstaff said...

Why, really, do we still live?

Mudra said...

I stopped writing fiction because of what you've just written about - the feeling that the same things had been written, by much better people.

we still dream of being four years old and lying curled up somewhere while somebody's describing these wondrous lands - pretty much. :)

??! said...

Falsie:
And that too.

Mudra:
Which is why you should continue to comment on things you see. Fun it is.

Falstaff said...

You know this whole "it's all been done before" argument is patently silly. Not only is style not separable from content, not only are writers constantly producing work unlike anything written before, but it is simply untrue that a recombination of the usual elements always results in something that's been done before. By that logic one could say there's no point studying chemistry, since all the known elements have been studied and combined before. The potential for discovering or generating new material from familiar building blocks is, for all practical purposes, infinite - whether in chemistry or in fiction.

km said...

If I may add to Falstaff's last comment:

The belief that it has all been said/written before is creative insecurity, though it often comes disguised as cynicism.

I am not saying this is specific to ??! or any one blogger here. It is only a general observation. We all seem to fall prey to that pernicious thought every now and then.

A close cousin of the "it's all been said before" is the "this this idea was best expressed in 1967 and this art form has not progressed since".

km said...

Gawd I love my this-es.

??! said...

Falsie:
That's a wrong analogy. Mixing things up in chemistry can often lead to new elements and compounds being formed - which have no relation to existing ones.

Literature, on the other hand, does have differences and variations - but it seems to be on the same basic, underlying themes. Yes, Fitzgerald writing about relationships is different from Dickens writing about them, but they're still writing about relationships - just from different perspectives.

Which, as I've pointed out, is not necessarily a bad thing.

KM:
Not cynicism, not insecurity - one just likes to look at one's world. One is a sage sage.

km said...

One is a sage sage

The best kind there :)

//I know - you were neither cynical nor insecure. One was being a philosophizing philosopher.

Shefaly said...

Thing is when I was a kid, my entire summer was spent with mangoes. When I was not eating them, I was being hosed for the after-effects of eating them (you know, face, hands, clothes all covered in mango juice and pulp.. you get the picture).

So why do I still want mangoes?

Cynic in Wonderland said...

...actually there is nothing in life which hasnt been done before. and yet we do it. again. and again. its escapism.