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    "One of God's greatest mercies is that he keeps us perpetually occluded."
    -Philip K. Dick, in Valis

    "[Max] Ernst shares with [Ernst] Mach the phenomenological doubt that we witness anything except in agnosis. What we understand of an event is very little compared to our ignorance of its meaning. The greater our sensibility, the sharper our skepticism, the more we are aware of the thinness of the light that is all we have to probe the dark."
    -Guy Davenport, in The Geography of the Imagination

    This is part of what makes any attempt to write the Novel of Adequacy so inadequate. Because any facet of the Big Big Picture that you focus on means (necessarily) that there are an infinite number of other equally important facets that you'll ignore.

    I think Pynchon maybe understands this better than anyone--

    "Oedipa wondered whether, at the end of this (if it were supposed to end), she ... might not be left with only compiled memories of clues, announcements, intimations, but never the central truth itself, which must somehow each time be too bright for her memory to hold; which must always blaze out, destroying its own message irreversibly, leaving an overexposed blank when the ordinary world came back."
    -Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

    Part of what makes Pynchon so great is that he basically decides, counterintuitively, to take our state of perpetual occlusion and play it for laughs. There are other kinds of responses out there: the history of postmodern fiction (from Tristam Shandy all the way up to, say, Ben Marcus' The Age of Wire and String) can be read as a series of responses to the realization of how inadequate our interpretive mechanisms really are.

    Still more to come.

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    Saturday, October 15, 2005
    2:37 PM


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