Saturday, 23 May 2009

When it is said that every happening, each moment of human thought and action, resides within causality, then what more is to be said? When one occurrence resides within a determined route of occurrences, each one an effect to a cause, then these words are already written.

So what hope choice in this matter? More specifically, what justifies action if not free will? My protagonists have come to a standstill - they have been written. Events have conspired to conceive, there is no return movement here. Reading a novel is reading something already written. It should not change before the end is completed. Words cannot shift, can they? So why read? To find out, to investigate? There are easier rivers to ford.

The novel, of course, plots a fa├žade of infinite possibility. The structure of the book draws a reader into believing anything can happen. This illusive possibility rises from a creation of behaviours, from a set of believable characters, borne of a finite relationship between determined foundations and laws. These are accounted for within the physical properties of the printed page, the governed interactions between language and thought and the history of the novel.

The printed page does not rise up and turn itself into a peach. The printed page cannot tear words from its sentences. It cannot generate tenses, it cannot make nouns disappear. It does not grow in size, nor can it shrink. It does not reorder its accusatives, substitute adjectives with antonyms. It does not translate itself into an unknown language or write a death instead of a birth.

There are rules too within language and thought, but these are less easy to grasp. But rules there are; even in the face of disputed Saussurian models or cultural slippages, there is an imperceptible map. Within reading a process takes place, and even with an enormous hole of understanding present (within which cognition, perception, influence lies), it is clear that something of a universal process takes place. Confirmation of this is found in the corners of libraries, in the ink of broadsheets, the odour of paperbacks.

Novels too have a history, they are with precedent, this history is a set of fatalistic occurrences in itself. Traditions are upheld, formal structures are respected, polite narratorial methods are employed - experimentalism is a reinforcement of these truisms through absence. B.S. Johnson's unfinished novels, Ballard's metamorphic protagonist in the Atrocity Exhibition, Calvino's genre-morphing chapters. Without something recognisable from the novelistic form (and here I care not whether you talk of Defoe or Cervantes or Dandin or Shikibu, because you talk of them in the context of themselves), then you do not have a novel. It is necessary.

As time draws in and other obligations insist, I pause here, absences recognised and accounted for; this is not - yet - in need of logic or discussion, but rather a means to an end. Like an equation with the function signs missing, or a river without source, certain connections need to be vitalised. If I could write it here with perfection and impunity, then the rest of my writing focuses would be deemed unnecessary.

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