Saturday, January 16, 2016

"… the prides of detachment …"

Robson relates what Mailer once said of Vidal the writer: that "his narcissistic explorations … do not go deep enough into himself, and so end up as gestures and postures"; that he "lacks the wound" required of all great writers; but that he was hopeful Vidal would "turn the prides of detachment into new perception." Vidal's friend Anaïs Nin seemed to concur, for after she read Vidal's first novel, Williwaw (1946), she wrote, "I am startled by the muted tone, the cool detached words."

Setting aside this business of "the wound" (which I am sure Vidal possessed, but, unlike Mailer, did not wear on his sleeve), and what Barthes had to say about the author in relation to the text, I am interested in detachment and what it is capable of when it comes to the production of literature. And this of course led me back to my library, to focus on more recent books by younger writers who share traits similar to those ascribed to Vidal, and whose own writing is consistent with these traits. What I found in fact were writers whose books I had unconsciously or otherwise shelved in the neighbourhoods of their stylistic imitatees -- neighbourhoods established by older writers like Bartheleme, Coetzee, Perec and Sebald.

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