A Few Thoughts on Surrealist Lit-Part II

Why is there (at least, perceived to be) a strong correlation between being a writer and being an alcoholic?

Why is there a whole group of writers who seem to write about shit that doesn’t even make sense?  Follow basic narrative?  Seem to have a fucking point?  Here’s an example to try on for size, from Pank!–one of my favorite top ten on the list of “Hey, we’re going to reject your fucking work as soon as the query hits our inbox, likely before we’ve even read the actual piece” publishers (and yes, despite it all, I still respect these motherfucking motherfuckers): http://www.pankmagazine.com/nakedness/

Indeed this is a growing phenomenon that I once considered pretentious and arrogant in nature, until…wait:

Why am I drinking whiskey right now?

If you read Part I, why not read this, too?

The value that I’ve found in surrealist literature has more to do with what you leave out than what you put into it.  Like an M.C. Escher piece, you have to learn how both parts fit together before you figure out how he etched…nevermind.  Not everyone, I realize, has sat down and tried to figure out how Escher put things together–coalescing the finite and the infinite.

In any case, here are three things to remember about shit that you read that doesn’t make sense (a.k.a., surrealist lit):

1) Every surrealist piece has something purposely left out, and another aspect purposely included:

Take for example, Nirvana lyrics.  Most of everything Kurt Cobain ever wrote had this element of nonsensical to it: until you consider the manner in which it was communicated.  Smells Like Teen Spirit has an element of “none of this makes sense” to it, but, if you read closely, the first lines of the song could almost (and, I don’t think it’s a mistake), read into a school shooting mentality:

Load up on guns, bring your friends
It’s fun to lose and to pretend
She’s over bored and self assured
Oh no, I know a dirty word

Here–and feel free to correct my reading too far into it–we have the teen angst of aggression versus being brainwashed into a false sense of morality.  Of course, the song was written before Columbine and all that, so we have to take context into consideration.

The rest of the song, I feel, is purposely nonsensical.  Why add reason to what one views as nonsense to begin with (the modern American education system)?

The worst thing Nirvana could have done to that song is try harder to make sense out of the lyrics.  There’s a time and place to place reason and logic, and I think Cobain nailed it on the head–even if he was high when he wrote it.

And even if he was high when he wrote it….

2) If there were nothing surrealist written, shit would get boring, quick.

Some thoughts are not best communicated in a straightforward fashion.  The deepest of deep emotions has its context, and, if we try to logically legitimize our perception of the emotion itself…we’re going to lose our ability to “just feel” how something sounds when we read it.

And sometimes, to truly understand something, you have to bypass all that logical shit.  Why?  Because, no matter how rational you (think) you are, you have to let what you read communicate with your reptile brain a little bit; to let something effect you before you’re even able to understand what it means is to really comprehend both its cultural and literary context.  Don’t B.S. yourself–the irrational becoming rational is just as significant to understanding the human condition as the inverse of that line of thinking (if you can even call it that) is.

3) Some things cannot be rationalized (yet):

You’re not a sophisticated enough animal to understand all levels of thought.  No one is.  Truly embarking upon that great mission of unraveling the mysteries of life without ever really grasping what those precepts mean is one of the best ways to approach life.  After all, to rationalize everything is to reduce it to reason.   And that, according to Kurt Godel, is impossible.

In any case, the surreal has its context.  Discovering what that context is, in your own writing, I believe is key to becoming a better writer.


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