Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What I Need

I'm currently reading Carol Shields, whose work has always struck me as particularly subversive, and her letters and interviews make clear that this was consciously so. The anger in her final novel (and finest, in my opinion) Unless is palpable, directed, but appropriately complicated by the world we live in, and Shields' understanding of it. But not loud, no, and not destructive. "I am trying to put forward my objection gently," her narrator writes. "I'm not screaming as you may think. I'm not even whining, and certainly not stamping my lady-sized foot. Whispering is more like it."

Of course, I don't think that novels have to be subversive. I think that the miracle of novels is that they do such mulitudinous things, provide us with infinite horizons to discover, and I'm always a bowled over by those who claim to have these complex organisms wrapped up in a tiny box. Michael Bryson writes in The Danforth Review, "We need our inherited tropes to be broken down, deconstructed, challenged to the core, overturned," but the thing is, I don't. And it's not because I'm stupid, or because I'm "middlebrow", however much I might be both. It's just that what I need is different.

I need work that takes our inherited tropes and builds upon them, expanding their infinite possibilities. I need construction. Challenge to the core, but bloody well make something of that challenge. Not necessarily to have things overturned, but at the very least surmounted. Make something. I need means to lead to ends, and I want to like where I have landed. I want to acknowledge where I started. I want power in whispers, so that I can really listen. No foot stomping, no sir.