Sunday, April 27, 2003

literate babble is still babble

I found myself surprised when, in the midst of the Saturday night/Sunday morning talk with my friends about writing, I suddenly had the sense that not all of us at that table approached the craft of writing in the same way. For the longest time I have kept my own notions about the seriousness of writing to myself, believing that the writers I knew (like the writers I knew from my days when I ran with the literary folk, the critics and the wordsmiths) held notions similar to mine. Of course it is a given that there would be variances as per theory (do you subscribe to this line of thought or that mode of reasoning) but there would be the unspoken assumption that writers who talk about craft or literature all agree that literature - the writing, the thinking, the theories, the end of goal of contributing something to the grand body of work developed by all the wonderful writers who came before you and inspired you or moved you - was important.

Important enough to agonize over, important enough to wrestle with, argue about, discuss into the wee hours of the morning over coffee or beer or whatever preferred poison. Important enough to talk about.

My epiphany was this: perhaps announcements should be made, like a dinner menu, and given ahead of time to everyone, so people can determine whether or not it is a conversation they'd care to participate in - or care about at all. Honestly, if such a scenario were possible, I myself could avoid all evenings with talk devoted to topics that fail to arouse me on whatever level and I could just stay home and play with Sage instead of being bored to tears. Similarly, if a menu informed me that no hifallutin talk was permitted, then I could just as easily shift to whatever topic was preferred, on demand. Everything safe, familiar, non-challenging, pleasant and convivial - same old, same old.

The tragic thing, for me, is the fact that I firmly believe in the importance of writing, in literature, in its primacy over other forms of entertainment. To realize that it is not case (where I wrongfully assumed it was) was just...sad. The error, of course, was on my part. Perhaps certain topics of conversation should remain dialogues (between two people) instead of table talk. The insurmountable truth, however, is that a dinner menu of conversation topics does not exist, and we all have to make do with whatever we have with whoever we're with whenever we are.

In the end, I respect whatever reason whichever writer espouses as his reason to write. But I'd rather not waste my time and thought talking to someone for whom theory is just babble and critical thinking, a waste of life.

And lest this little rumination trigger a hue and an outcry, no, nothing happened. The evening was fine, very enjoyable.

It's all in my head.

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