October 15, 2012

Jeremy M. Davies quote


It all comes back to our old friend the arbitrary constraint. (The following is a fairly familiar argument, I think, but come along anyhow, we’ll make a day of it.) One of the basic tenets of the Oulipo—founded in reaction, if not opposition, to Breton’s Surrealists—is that freedom, in writing (that is, “letting it flow,” and other such nauseating commonplaces), leads one to produce derivative offal. That is, when you free associate, it isn’t you talking, it’s the culture: we’re all plugged into the same calcified memes, cadences, and clichés; we’ve all got hearts, brothers and sisters, of bullshit. And yet—and yet!—we all still have to use the same words to communicate, all have to dip into the same language(s) to write “creatively,” all have to do our best to keep English (in this case) a worthwhile medium. The only way to circumvent the unclean spirit is to put pressure on our means of expression—and the best way isn’t to stop at naming your character “John McLane” rather than “Mr. M’Choakumchild” (though this is no less a constraint, and no less arbitrary, really, than not using the letter E), but to frustrate one’s compositional impulses at their root. Now everyone can type “Oulipo” into a search engine and choose their own example.

What this has to do with smut is that here, again, is a medium where one is restricted to a fairly finite number of effective tools. Sex as sex is not all that interesting, outside the context of our complex reactions to it in life, in art, in passing. Prudishness, then, is an arbitrary constraint on human interaction and expression. It makes smut more interesting and peculiar if it comes out of someone battling their own inability to be forthright about . . . whatever. Even if they succeed in writing something quite filthy, this filth is a different filth from the filth mongered by an author who feels they have nothing to hide. (Which reminds me: my favorite Oulipian constraint? The “Canada Dry”: Write something that reads as though it was written under a constraint, but was not.)

- Jeremy M. Davies, find the rest of the interview here


1 comment:

Tor Hershman said...

Ahhhh, the CULTure speakin', that's an excellent phrase.

Stay on groovin' safari,