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3.08.2011

Kyle Minor Replies To Tao Lin's Reply on Kyle Minor's Reply to Jordan Castro

As Kyle Minor pointed out in the comments of the last post, Tao Lin has replied to the Muumuu House post at HTMLGiant. It is quite interesting to read Lin talking about his writing, about writers talking about the purpose of their writing, about art in general.

Some comments from Tao Lin:


on hipster kind of caring:
"i feel like people mentioned in jordan’s post actually ‘care’ about those things much more than the average person, objectively, in that the ways in which they spend their money, i feel, concretely oppose those things more than the ways in which 99% of the population spend their money"
[my marginalia: but is spending money to support a system that is inherently flawed of any consequence?]

on the writer as someone who does care:
"if a person views a book as something a person has created then (if caring is measured by effort) the book, no matter its content, will always imply ‘caring’"
[my marginalia: in such the case, you're saying everything matter therefore, nothing actually matters, no?]

on morality in art:
"i think i would want to respond to this if you quoted specific sentences, i think being specific, by way of ‘training’ one’s mind to more accurately connect cause and effect (so that each individual is treated based on their actions, which if people did to a certain degree would eliminate ‘hate crimes,’ racism, name-calling, [any action that opposes something except those based on something someone has concretely done him or herself, like hurt someone else physically]), is ‘moral’ in that it reduces unfairness, pain, and suffering in the world, based on what i know, and in a way that i feel you would agree"
[my marginalia: reveals a very individualistic philosophy on Lin's part]

on his own writing:
"personally i view my writing, mostly, currently, as something resulting from the base ‘mysteriousness’ or confusion of existence (morals are something inside of that)"
"i don't want my writing to promote a point of view"
[my marginalia: does the writer have an obligation to have a 'point of view'? By writing does s/he have a point of view, even if s/he avoid it?]

Minor also brings home some nice points:
"Tao seems to be saying that whatever doesn’t rise from the concrete and specific is inherently untrustworthy. (Here he is in league with Chekhov, and with William Carlos Williams, who wrote: “No ideas but in things.”) This idea is itself an abstraction, and a useful one. I agree with Tao that abstract thought is inherently less trustworthy than concrete experience. I also agree that any given abstraction or ideology is at any moment a few steps away from atrocity. This is another abstraction that is worthy of our attention — a value judgment I’m not afraid to make in response  to the abstraction."
[my marginalia: good point on materialism]

Also:
"I would argue that Tao’s good point that the deployment of abstractions may at any time be a few steps away from atrocity, does not mean that abstractions ought therefore be avoided."
[my marginalia: YES!]

Read the whole thing here. [without my marginalia]

And for background, read this and this.

It's all interesting, but leaves me wondering if writers should be talking about their writing. In literary theory, in at least one school of thought, isn't critical theory just based on the text itself, making anything the author has said to contextualize it (as Lin does here), futile? I'm wondering if an author's comment actually helps the reading of a text, and if it even matters.

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