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emotional unemployment

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Fredric Jameson in the LRB on Hemingway and Carver: 

This is not to suggest that minimalism finds its realisation in the repudiation of the category of expression as such. On the contrary, the inaugural model of minimalism, Ernest Hemingway, simply opened up another alternative path to expression, one characterised by the radical exclusion of rhetoric and theatricality, for which, however, that very exclusion and its tense silences and omissions were precisely the technique for conveying heightened emotional intensity (particularly in the marital situation). Hemingway’s avatar, Raymond Carver, then learned to mobilise the minimalist technique of ‘leaving out’ in the service of a rather different and more specifically American sense of desolation and depression – of emotional unemployment, so to speak.

Interesting thought: that the outrolling of literary history and influence reveals that the apophatic isn’t just “mentioning by not mentioning” but in the long run is an index of the fact that there was nothing to mention in the first place. Carver takes up a style that is meant to suggest depths by remaining on the surface only to realise that they’re only ever surface. The ineffable shifts from what can’t be said to what’s not there to be said in the first place. Or even that the adoption of minimalism leads fiction into perversely-Pascalian situation: Minimalise, delete your words, and you will believe that there was nothing to delete in the first place. 



Written by adswithoutproducts

January 10, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Posted in fiction, jameson

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  1. […] Ads Without Products (nice guy, I corresponded with him once; I think, hint-hint, that he’d like my book!) posts an excerpt, in which Jameson says about Hemingway/Carver exactly what you might deduce he would say about them if you thought about it for a minute.  I like Jameson, but he’s not exactly a surprise a minute.  Once a friend was staying at my place, and he seemed irritated that I was making him watch Gilmore Girls repeats, so I entertained him (he never was tempted by Marxism) with an airtight Jamesonian reading of Lorelei, Rory, et al.  I can probably reproduce it if anybody’s curious. […]

  2. […] Must Read: Emotional Unemployment […]

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