We Are Between Infinite Commas

Shields--Pun Intended

Shields–Pun Intended

Repetition does not breed; repetition is birth itself. Repetition is an extraction prolonged into strings of embryonic copies. Given room to repeat, blurriness is definite due to a nature of reality: flux. In spite of flux, however, repetition rises to counter change with a manifest, deft hand that sways, adapts, re-presents itself over, and over, and over again. Reality is the flux of being reborn—mimetic coagulation. Post-Platonic copies of nothing, and everything being presented.

I guess my premise is simple: aesthetic realism is faulty. For example, TvTropes indicates that:

The idea is extremely simple: Art should replicate real life as closely as possible. It should be a “Slice of Life” if you will, and consistent with our expectations of reality outside the text.

As a counterpoint to this, I might cite David Shields’ Reality Hunger, in which, it may seem his book is structured to present a case for realism. It is not. The contents of the book are headed up with catchphrases like, “In Praise of Brevity,” or, “Books for People Who Find Television too Slow.” As a manifesto, though, Shields pulls no punches. As a precursor to the opening of his book these quotes might frame his views on aesthetic realism:

All great works of literature either dissolve a genre or invent one.

-Walter Benjamin.

Art is theft.


When we are not sure, we are alive.

-Graham Greene.

In his overture, he considers his project “literary montage.” Which is better shown than said, because he shall:

Purloin no valuables, appropriate no ingenious formulations. But the rags, the refuse—these I will not inventory but allow, in the only way possible, to come into their own: by making use of them.

And so it begins.

Throughout the book, Shields makes a case for dropping a realistic aesthetic. He, instead, suggests something I am currently composing -an essay- as the new form, style, and voice of this era. He even makes a joke/citation by saying that, “some of the best fiction is now being written as nonfiction.” Ouch, aesthetic realism—reality and fiction is inherently blurred, in spite of concise writing…but Shields’ main argument hinges on a simple fact of life, in that, we exist as fragments-in-flux. We are nothing like the consistent narratives of the classic novel. We are remixed Shakespearean soliloquy; we are Plath at her best and worst when she confesses that “people or stars regard her sadly. I disappoint them.” This is something of a “modern lyric,” and Shields refers to this “reality-based art” as “underprocessed, underproduced—splinters…” Contrary to aesthetic realism, hybrid nonfiction, or, new “essays,” are, again, blurring genres—the intention behind this is to make art and fact reliable in an essaying/assaying presentation: fragmented, but appealing/appalling; truthfully oblique; a translucent magnification. But one citation Shields makes sums up this best:

…art is not truth; art is a lie that enables us to recognize truth.

And in the end, I believe Shields’ argument against aesthetic realism is that it is a formulation that contradicts human consciousness, in terms of memory and language. People can write more than one memoir and need not feel aesthetic boundaries around ones’ life in doing so.

Shields makes a radical argument, though, that goes beyond what aesthetic realism proponents might:

Don’t waste your time; get to the real thing. Sure, what’s “real”? Still, try to get to it.


Anything processed by memory is fiction.

But, I cannot simply end on that note, because TvTropes’ article on aesthetic realism is a definition that is about more than what writing about reality is; the entry implies reader expectation and desire, and that the reader wants replications of reality based on EXPECTATIONS outside of the text. This is where, I think, aesthetic realism, as a driving ideal for artistic production, fails: recall is partial reconstitution, and all fabrication. We tell ourselves stories of ourselves, which are, in truth, not true representations of “reality.” The issue I find amusing is that writing has historically followed a linear arc that does not, by any means, look anything like what our conscious experiences are (Shakespeare excluded for obvious reasons). I believe we write these self-narratives to compose some continuity, and in doing so, expect life to be similar, when it is not. It does not take a Zen master to know that you are constantly changing, shifting, and learning and forgetting, remaking the lost with new stories…”new” copies.



About WickedCultured

👨‍🎓MSW student @USC, Writer✍️, Gamer🎮, Runner🏃‍♂️
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