Since I’ve already stepped out on a ledge, I’m going to take another toddle forward because why not. I’ve never known when to check myself, I’m a lot like The Fool in the Tarot deck – head in the clouds and blissfully unaware of where my feet are taking me. In this case it’s my words. They always have been my favourite mode of transportation, and like my feet, have an intimate relationship with my mouth.
I have a friend who is working on a thesis based around “dirty” books and how they’ve historically been dealt with by society and its laws. She’s exploring whether explicit sex is the last boundary in literature. I’m not sure whether it’s the sex itself or explicit sex as entertainment for the masses that’s creating a breach, but is it literary, or license?
Widespread exposure to sex via the Internet has made it safe (or at least convenient) for people to peek out of their closets and claim an interest, which in itself is a positive thing. But what are they meeting with on the other side of the door? I’ve been calling 50 Shades suburban porn – couch art. It has made the common denominator feel as if it has joined, at equal footing, a conversation that’s been happening around it all along. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. I mentioned in a previous post that the public has historically been unable to see brilliance from within its concurrent restrictions and opinions. Perhaps I’m having trouble seeing talent where I should, and that is entirely my fault. We’re at the foundation of new innovations to the written word, how it’s shared and enjoyed, and accepted by the public. Barriers have already been crossed and the question I have is this: is it freedom, is it destruction, both, neither – will it amount to anything? And ultimately, will it elevate us, or lower us?
Said friend mentioned Fanny Hill as parody of “sexually explicit virtue novels of the 18th century” as she put it. Everyone wanted to get their hands on it, mostly because they couldn’t – at least not without subterfuge, which is always a tempting little motivator. But what did it really do to advance literature? I’m still on my comparison of literature with other art forms, and as I said before, I think fine art had its revolution long ago. With installations such as Seedbed, I truly don’t know whether there are boundaries left to cross, at least not significant ones. What does that do to art?
But literature still does have clear boundaries between art and porn (even if it’s called by the more acceptable term, Erotica). So does film. As I told my friend, I find it very curious that literature and film are essentially neck and neck at the same signposts of restriction, when literature has been around for so much longer. One could argue that it’s because writing evolved along lines of religious representation, whereas film did not – but so did fine art. So why the discrepancy?
Does it have something to do with the written word as a common means of communication, which therefore has stunted its growth as art? Is the commonality the impediment? Or is it completely typical to disregard “impressions of sunsets” as having any value? Deconstruction is evolution in art. Fanfic is the new Fanny Hill – parody that has made a public splash, and found its defense in historical reference to having put access into the hands of the public via subterfuge. Deconstructed works of fiction. But don’t you need to understand the construction before you can successfully deconstruct?
Perhaps these works of 21st century Dada will ultimately have little effect on the ways we define literature. I’m not so sure. I think it will have a lasting and perhaps profound effect – I just don’t know what that will be, and it has me worried, because I’m already part of a much maligned genre of fiction that will not benefit from further compartmentalization. 50 Shadeseque writing is not empowering; it reinforces several long held—as well as a few brand new—stereotypes. That’s not something I care to see expanded. It’s the unenlightened contribution to a conversation that has remained incomprehensible not because it’s inaccessible – not anymore. But because it’s misinterpreted by those who will nonetheless interrupt the flow by diverging into tributaries that may or may not benefit the destination, unknown though that may be. Wherever it’s going, I’d prefer the momentum to be focused forward, and not diverted into little eddies of stationary movement.