Saturday, March 28, 2009


So James Poulos was the conservative with the mutton chops and the velvet jackets I wrote about with delight the other day. I stumbled across a post of his at The American Scene and ended up hopskipping through his archive there as the whimsy has taken me. I've been impressed numerous times, but this post took the cake for me: Ophelia, I'm Only Dancing: Lies, Damned Lies, and Metafiction.

This is the risk run in playing the dangerous game of constructing realities that are fictions and fictions that are realities. Kafka’s Sancho makes good on that risk because he has so tightly circumscribed his paradox: with Quixote and himself, he is constructing one single relationship. Adding layerings of metafiction, as Hamlet does, adds illusory escape hatches and fire exits. Kafka’s Sancho develops his metafiction so as to bring on a reckoning for which he hasn’t the courage. Hamlet develops his own so as to indefinitely postpone a reckoning which works its vengeance out on him anyway. Our contemporary play seeks to have it neither way — by lowering the stakes and multiplying the layers, we can, we hope, hop endlessly among shifting perspectives, never trapped in the responsibility that follows on performance in reality. But this move raises the stakes of the dangerous game. Becoming less conscious of the risk involved increases it. Suddenly becoming conscious of it, under the pressure of both believing and unbelieving, may trigger a shattering disillusionment — and a disgust for all fictions.

In many ways it's overly baroque and theoretical, but it's so unapologetic and, well, good, that I don't care. It's revelrous.

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