Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Plot Against Literature

Does Philip Roth include his call for a 100-year moratorium on 'insufferable literary talk' within itself? One presumes not. Such remarks are always orientated towards the future, towards an ideal world. Perhaps we should regard it as the last word before the moratorium begins. Or should we wait for the act of Parliament? The latter probably, as only then might we begin to understand what Roth means exactly. Our elected representatives would have to decide whether 'insufferable literary talk' is a pleonasm or a specific type of literary talk. It might take some time to define.

While we wait, one of us might write a speculative novel about a happy, innocent world mercifully free of insufferable literary talk. A fairytale perhaps. After a time, the Arcadia in which our hero frolics inside white pages unblemished by marginalia is threatened by the rise to power of a misguided man. So much does he love this paradise, he wants to legislate in order to ‘protect’ it. The Plot Against Literature. The novel would become an instant bestseller, lauded by insufferable literary types. This is the real thing, they’ll say. Real literature! The blurb would introduce it as a cautionary tale about how public discussion about protecting each individual’s paradise of reading eventually destroys it.

Unfortunately this novel would also become the first book to test the new law. After all, the threat of insufferable literary talk cannot be discussed without raising the question of literature; the questions we all ask in our lonely ‘fight with the books’. The author would have to stand before the law charged with insufferable literary talk and so, in the process, threatening our paradise of reading.

On a point of law, the author's defence team could argue that the legislators are themselves articulating the ultimate in insufferable literary talk. The stone pages of the law have, by definition, become the absolute of literature, thus achieving a dominion over the literary world of which everyday insufferable literary critics can only dream.

As a member of the jury, what's your insufferable verdict?

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I need permission to desist. When are you podcasting this work, Steve?



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