:: Buzzwords

Repeat after me

Joshua Cohen interviewed by Harper’s:

Through wordplay — repetition, rephrasing, rhyming — each of the stories in the book carries an active, energetic sense of “noise” on the page. In addition to the narrative, the interaction of language tells a story of its own. How should this style shape the reading experience? Should your stories be read aloud?

I write everything by saying it aloud. I believe in the ear. Most of our narrative history has been oral/aural. It’s the tradition of sitting around a fire, listening to lore, hearing myth, but then the development of writing systems, and of publishing systems, caused and confirmed this transition to the visual/manual, or the graphic/manual. We became more eye-and-hand-oriented, creatures crouching alone, reading off the page. The Internet extends this, but reaches back in the other direction to reincorporate the older sensorium—the mouths and ears coming out of retirement so that everything’s engaged now but, perhaps, the olfactory. I don’t expect my readers to read aloud—but I do hope to remind them of the literary primacy of their mouths and ears.

The repetitions are, in my mind, linked to the idea that the Internet is conceptually vast, but you end up spending the bulk of your time visiting the same sites again and again (or perhaps this is just my own practice). I’m not especially interested in the variety of the Internet; rather I’m interested in the human experience of the promise of variety, a promise fulfilled only by a similarity or sameness, and the idea that the computer seems to license every option of virtuality, while our own humanity seems limited, or to self-limit, through laziness or shame, to the same thing every day.

First posted: Friday, September 14th, 2012.

Comments are closed.