Friday, March 22, 2013

Down From The Mountain

Last year, Lars Iyer published "a literary manifesto after the end of literature and manifestos" here – and it opens like this –

"Once upon a time, writers were like gods, and lived in the mountains. They were either destitute hermits or aristocratic lunatics, and they wrote only to communicate with the already dead or the unborn, or for no one at all. They had never heard of the marketplace, they were arcane and antisocial. Though they might have lamented their lives—which were marked by solitude and sadness—they lived and breathed in the sacred realm of Literature. They wrote Drama and Poetry and Philosophy and Tragedy, and each form was more devastating than the last. Their books, when they wrote them, reached their audience posthumously and by the most tortuous of routes. Their thoughts and stories were terrible to look upon, like the bones of animals that had ceased to exist.

Later, there came another wave of writers, who lived in the forests below the mountains, and while they still dreamt of the heights, they needed to live closer to the towns at the edge of the forest, into which they ventured every now and again to do a turn in the public square. They gathered crowds and excited minds and caused scandals and partook in politics and engaged in duels and instigated revolutions. At times, they left for prolonged trips back to the mountains, and when they returned, the people trembled at their new pronouncements. The writers had become heroes, gilded, bold and pompous. And some of the loiterers around the public square started to think: I quite like that! I have half a notion to try that myself.

Soon, writers began to take flats in the town, and took jobs—indeed, whole cities were settled and occupied by writers. They pontificated on every subject under the sun, granted interviews, and published in the local press, St Mountain Books. Some even made a living from their sales, and, when those sales dwindled, they taught about writing at Olympia City College, and when the college stopped hiring in the humanities, they wrote memoirs about ‘mountain living’. They became savvy in publicity, because it became evident that the publishing industry was an arm of the publicity industry, and the smart ones worked first in advertising, which was a good place to hone the craft. And the writers began to outnumber their public, and, it became apparent, the public was only a hallucination after all, just as the importance of writing was mostly a hallucination."