Writing as thinking


Dinah Lenney makes a case against knowing @ Brevity. Here’s a story about one of those times that made all the difference: I was in the middle of getting my MFA in a low residency program – also, I should add, in the throes of despair about my work – and I went to a reading at a gallery in Santa Monica. At some point in the evening I found myself standing in front of a painting, and beside me was one of my mentors, a fine writer named Jim Krusoe. “How’s the writing?” Jim asked. Come to find out, talking in a gallery is a little like talking in a car; something about not having to look a person in the eye (and this is maybe a bit like writing, too) makes all kinds of confession possible. And so, when Jim asked, “How’s the writing?,” I was honest with him. “What writing? Fuck writing,” I said. “I’m never writing anything again.” Then Jim asked, “What question are you trying to answer?”

Thanks to Jim, since that time, when I’m down and out about the work, I’m liable to ask myself: What question are you trying to answer? It’s not that I necessarily come up with any single question. As for answers, my hunch is that the answers are beside the point: It’s looking for answers – it’s not knowing and wanting to know – that’s what’s interesting, that’s the truth of the human condition, and, as a reader and a writer, that’s what I’m after on the page.So, as Susan Sontag is Against Interpretation, and Phillip Lopate is Against Joie de Vivre, and Laura Kipnis is Against Love, I’m against knowing.

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