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Tongue in cheek, tongues of flame

Well, now, another piece from SMILE magazine, OK. I confess I don't like the stuff much - I'll try to explain why. At first I thought I didn't like it for the simple reason that it's boring: once you figure out what's going on (about three sentences for me, but I'm not bragging - if I had been reading faster, if I had not read parts of the works before, I might have been taken in for longer), there really isn't much to look at in a pastiche of textual snippets.

Not that this kind of art (I'll call it that) is meaningless; far from it. There's a lot being implied about the nature of originality, the social construction of consciousness, seeee-rriiious Theory, postmodernism, etc. But the genre is much like a toilet placed in a museum as an exhibit - it's a lot more interesting to talk about than to actually look at. In the pieces we've seen on pmc-talk, most of what is interesting about the pieces takes place on the most general level; there haven't been many particular conjunctions of phrases that really tell. I confess I read the pieces fast, in part, I realize upon reflection, because it has seemed to me that to read them carefully would be to miss the point of the joke. Excuse me, the "joke."

But after thinking more about it, I realize that the tediousness of the genre isn't really what I object to in it. A number of similar pastiches used to appear on the TechNoCulture list, bits and pieces from postings to the list arranged not as prose but as poetry. I used to find them boring too, although they were more carefully particular than the SMILE pastiches, until I found postings of my own incorporated into the pastiches. At that time my whole experience of the pastiches changed. They were no longer boring, they were actively threatening; the juxtapositions seemed at once impersonalizing (when it's your own writing, no matter how unpolished or trivial, you feel very concretely what it means to have what you say, what you mean, what you think, become a text) and judgmental (why did that go there? what did the author think?). In other words, I finally Got It. (Do you Get It?) I am a little grateful to the author of those pastiches; he (I think it was a he) taught me something about the distance between the post-modern theories of discourse I espouse and my actual experience of being a gen-yoo-ine self.

But I still don't like the genre. Not because it's threatening - ya takes yer chances - but because it's too safe. Safe for the authors, that is. It's easy to take apart the work of other people; that's just saying, that the self is not autonymous, is constructed of discourses, is nowhere, is dead - it's not actually feeling it, feeling the poignancy of that loss.

So, Monty Eliot and Karen Cantsin - if that's who you really are - I have a challenge for you. By all means, do another pastiche. You can use this posting if you want, not that you need my permission. But this time, get your own writing in too. It doesn't matter what it is, so long as it's something you care about - your doctoral dissertation, a letter to a friend who is dying of AIDS, whatever; you decide. See for yourself if you live where you think you live.

Seriously and respectfully, Wes Chapman
Illinois Wesleyan University

Date: Fri, 21 Aug 92 14:37:43 CDT
From: Wes Chapman <WESCHAP@vmd.cso.uiuc.edu>

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