(Note: This is a revision of a previously published edition.)
If literature were a person, it’d be in a vegetative state. Nothing new is said, nothing new is to be learned, nothing new is offered—the appearances might change but the forms remain the same.
A cliche persists in our culture that if you want to change the system you must first become part of the system. This is an illusion meant to persuade people to embrace the system; it’s designed to inculcate conformity.
Like our culture, literature itself is homogenized while taking on the appearance of heterogeny.
In an image-obsessed culture, appearances are everything.
Another cliche with which we’re familiar warns us to refrain from judging a book by its cover. In reality, we should judge a book by its form. Form should supersede appearances. But in accordance with our species, a peculiar mammal with the cognitive ability to process and model information linearly, the form remains the same while the appearances change.
In an age of movies and television, video games and the internet, things must change. Literature cannot excel at telling linear stories the way visual media can; instead, literature should transcend the simulacrum and represent new and alternate ways to experience simulated or emulated realities.
And that is what literature does: it emulates or simulates realities. Contrary to early Wittgenstein, language does not picture reality; instead, it provides instructions for your brain to construct models. (more…)