Black Box, Red Spark

The New York Times Magazine (one of the less shitty things produced by the Times, it should be said) recently ran an article about George Saunders, a writer of the same generation as David Foster Wallace, whom people are apparently taking quite a liking to lately. I’ve never read him, but at the least, his description of the purpose of art (and the reference to Vonnegut!) make me interested to do so:

“I began to understand art as a kind of black box the reader enters,” Saunders wrote in an essay on Vonnegut. “He enters in one state of mind and exits in another. The writer gets no points just because what’s inside the box bears some linear resemblance to ‘real life’ — he can put whatever he wants in there. What’s important is that something undeniable and nontrivial happens to the reader between entry and exit. . . . In fact, Slaughterhouse-Five seemed to be saying that our most profound experiences may require this artistic uncoupling from the actual. The black box is meant to change us.”

Over against another common understanding of art, that art is entertainment, nothing more, that to give to art a purpose beyond some nebulous (surely neuronal) satisfaction is to insult the artist, (because all artists just want to entertain, right?) this notion of art is quite refreshing! Art as a vehicle for change! Creation as a mindfield made by one to pull an other through–after which, moreover, that other will be another other!

Let this place be a collection of such black boxes, with a simple purpose: to incite if not inflame a red spark in and among some other(s), some readers, you, you who are not-all!

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