Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

I’m not interested in recreating the world, only in trying to comprehend it. I’m a wisdom addict, though I’m aware that wisdom is, to an extent, futile. I’d prefer to see a literature composed of introspection and actualizations. That’s all that matters to me.

A forbidden topic of discussion is that secular Jews, having a greater understanding of reality, are better at analyzing it than creating it.

For instance, Lauren Slater’s Lying; Harold Brodkey’s most essays; Phillip Lopate’s introduction to The Art of the Personal Essay; Vivian Gornick’s majority of works.

Leonard Michaels’ works; Bernard Cooper’s Maps to Anywhere; Melanie Thernstrom’s The Dead Girl; Wallace Shawn’s My Dinner with André,

Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease”; and J.D. Salinger’s later works featuring his deep insight (which is expected to be filled with Buddhist-influenced musings for the past four decades).

Going further back in time, one could consider Marx, Proust, Freud, Wittgenstein, and Einstein.

Michel de Montaigne famously questioned “What do I know?”–thus creating and continuing a pattern of thought. Lucretius in On the Nature of Things, St. Augustine in Confessions, Pascal in Pensées, Rousseau in Confessions, and Rochefoucauld in Maxims all followed suit.

Yeats once said, “One must go beyond, becoming both their own betrayer and deliverer, turning the mirror into a lamp.”

This could be an apt epigraph for the works of Nietzsche, E. M. Cioran, Alphonse Daudet’s In the Land of Pain, Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquietude and Michel Leiris’ Manhood: A Journey from Childhood into the Fierce Order of Virility.

Leiris wrote, “I hold the mask that hides my life, coloring it with my personal perspective through a web of meaningless occurrences.”

I’m enthralled by the sharpness of mind that resides in creative works.

Nicholson Baker’s U & I, Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage, Terry Castle’s “My Heroin Christmas”, Cyril Connolly’s The Unquiet Grave, Jonathan Lethem’s The Disappointment Artist,

Richard Stern’s “orderly miscellanies”, Roland Barthes’ S/Z, Wayne Koestenbaum’s The Queen’s Throat, Nabokov’s Gogol, Beckett’s and Proust’s works, and William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience all come to mind.

Sister Mary Ignatius is the one who can explain it all for you–the merciless beautiful ladies: Joan Didion and her collection of essays, Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights, as well as all of Pauline Kael’s writing, and Renata Adler’s Speedboat.

On a different note, Sandra Bernhard’s Without You I’m Nothing and Sarah Silverman’s Jesus Is Magic are both noteworthy.

In the other direction of the tracks was Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain, Denis Leary’s No Cure for Cancer, Rick Reynolds’ Only the Truth Is Funny, nearly all of Spalding Gray’s work, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and all of Ross McElwee’s.

I hold this piece of writing in high regard due to its blend of field report and self-portrait, fiction and nonfiction. The author-narrators make use of themselves as characters and as embodiments of emotion.

Narratives are crafted in an antilinear, eclectic manner, yet remain solemn despite their comedic phrasing. Its distinct, passionate voices really make it stand out.

William Carlos Williams often waxed lyrical about the legendary Frank Sinatra, noting that, no matter what stage of life we are in, we are all searching for companionship and understanding.

Someone who can remind us that we are not alone and can relate to the thoughts that cross our minds while we are walking, sitting or driving.

The attempt to incorporate more of an artist’s perception of reality into their art has been present since the beginning of time. Braque wished to be as close to reality as he could, whereas Zola said that each artist is a realist in their own right.

Whitman suggested that the true poem lies in the daily paper. Examples of this idea can be seen in the works of Chekhov’s diaries, E. M. Forster’s Commonplace Book, Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up, Cheever’s journals which were published posthumously, Alan Bennett’s Writing Home, and Edward Hoagland’s diaries.

In an interview, Steve Martin remarked that the individual across from them was doing one thing while thinking something else. He continued to explain that life itself is never fake, but acting can be.

When someone walks into a place as a customer, there is nothing artificial about it; however, if someone comes in pretending to be a customer, there may be something insincere about it because they are really wondering if people appreciate them or not.

Jonathan Goldstein asserted that life should not be about finding the perfect words and re-listening to them; rather, it is about making mistakes and embracing the present moments. This sentiment was echoed by Boswell in his work Life of Johnson and Jean Stein’s Edie.

Henry Adams’ autobiography is recounted by Geoffrey Wolff in The Duke of Deception and Julian Barnes in Flaubert ‘s Parrot.

Eliot wrote “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.” This phrase was later echoed by Eduardo Galeano in The Book of Embraces and Richard Brautigan in Trout Fishing in America.

In the words of Walter Benjamin, “all great works of literature either found a genre or dissolve one.” This sentiment is echoed by authors such as V. S. Naipaul in A Way in the World, Joe Wenderoth in Letters to Wendy’s, George W.S.

Throw in Within the Context of No Context, Brian Fawcett in Cambodia:

 A Book for People Who Find Television Too Slow, Jean Toomer in Cane, Edmund Carpenter in Oh, What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me!, Gilbert Sorrentino in “The Moon in Its Flight”, James Agee in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and Michael Lesy in Wisconsin Death Trip.

According to Dylan, genre is akin to a “minimum-security prison”. He then goes on to say “I may look like Robert Frost, but I feel like Jesse James.”

Similarly, Suzan-Lori Parks suggests that it is not necessarily because traditional plays are boring that she chooses to “explode the form”, but because it is necessary to accommodate the figures that take up residence inside her.

It is clear that the pioneers are identifiable by the number of “arrows in their back”, and the indivisibility of the varieties of expression.

Ben Marcus expresses the opinion that lyric essayists hold a distinct advantage over fiction writers, who must contend with the notion that their work is not based on reality.

He notes that this label of “just fiction” is an oft-utilized dismissal of a writer’s work, and praises the genre for its ability to “enhance what you think you know.”

He goes on to say that some of the most impressive fiction of today is being written under the guise of nonfiction, citing authors such as Hilton Als, Kathryn Harrison, and W. G. Sebald.

Sebald stated that the standard novel is often too contrived, and he favors prose over it as a medium.

The lyric essay, on the other hand, allows one to stress its “aboutness” and its metaphysical significance, while having plenty of drama, albeit being subservient to the bigger drama of the mind.

Hamlet is mainly about the characters’ dialogue and their views on a variety of topics. The plot is secondary in comparison and can almost be completely forgotten. The voice of Hamlet is like a machine that is constantly processing and giving out perspective.

His last words show he would keep talking if he didn’t have to die as part of the plot.

Rather than the action that plays out, the real story lies in what goes on inside our minds while nothing, or very little, is happening. The endless cycle of singular fixations and revisions. The sound of one hand clapping.

The sound of a person by themselves in the dark, musing. Outstanding art is a sharp comprehension of conflicting emotions.

Though I’m disinterested in self in and of itself; I’m rather intrigued in it as a vehicle for themes, as a habitat.

What I’m looking for is the sound of a person by themselves in the dark, pondering life–like Hawthorne’s “The Custom-House”; Borges’ Other Inquisitions ; Stendhal’s On Love ; and Baldwin’s earlier essays. The sound of a single hand clapping.

One of the nicest compliments I have ever received about my writing was, “It’s all about you, but not really about you. How can that be?” Montaigne commented that “Every person encompasses the complete range of human experience.”

Emerson added that “In exploring the depths of one’s own mind, he discovers the depths of all minds. In every work of brilliance we can identify the ideas we have previously discarded; they are returned to us in a peculiar, estranged grandeur.”

John D’Agata states that poetry and the essay are closely intertwined, as they are both methods of problem-solving. He references authors such as Berryman, Vonnegut, Larkin, Carson, Dillard and others.

He explains that while fiction can be entertaining, essays and poetry are more intent on figuring out something about the world. He notes his difficulty in reading or writing novels, with a few exceptions such as Markson’s.

This Is Not a Novel, Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Houellebecq’s works, Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel, Constant’s Adolphe and Davis’ works.

According to Cioran, art is only a starting point for the real artist, who draws their material from within. He states that there is nothing worse than the fear of boredom, and that is what he experiences when he opens a novel.

He is not interested in the life of the protagonist and does not accept it as reality. He claims that the genre is running out of ideas and characters, and the plots are fading away.

He goes on to mention that the only novels worth reading are those in which, after the world is disbanded, nothing happens, such as Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, Thomas Bernhard’s works, Albert Camus’ The Fall, Marguerite Duras’ The Lover and Barry Hannah’s Boomerang.

Hannah declared her admiration for biographical writing due to the fact that it lacks the ‘veil of let’s pretend’ which is what she finds wrong with art.

She has never been interested in fancifulness and the never-never lands of the imagination, but rather what puts readers in a special space found in no other place than the page.

Beckett’s works are focused on life, not the Irish voice that is too lyrical or allusive and is instead centered on the bleakness of existence. Despite this, he created joy from depression, and Hannah finds his stories to be prayer-like.

She wants a voice that transcends artiness and goes beyond the ‘let’s pretend’ veil.

At the age of eighteen, I had a plan to dedicate my life to art. I thought all of my movements would be creative and related to art, but reality quickly set in. Life has its various mundane tasks like dealing with allergies, paying bills, and commuting that cannot be avoided.

Life is largely composed of tedious tasks. Fortunately, reality-based art can bridge the gap between life and the idea of “life as art”. Anything can be seen as art if viewed differently, which makes both art and life more enjoyable and livable.

Further Considerations

The world today is a far cry from what it was in the past, when it comes to technology. Nowadays, almost every aspect of our lives is touched by the advancements made in technology, and this has had a huge influence on society.

From the way we communicate, to how we work, to the way we entertain ourselves, technology has revolutionized these areas and drastically changed the way we live.

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