Thursday, June 25, 2009

John Barth

The Night Sea Journey from John Barth's collection Lost in the Funhouse, is a strange little allegory that plays empty when inspected. Substituting , presumably, a species of human fish for Christians and System-locked beings in general, we have a neat inversion of the collective self-denial that keeps a system working, churning.
It's a system here, a faith system pegged on the need to keep the population swimming to the unreachable Shore, that has all questions about existence channled back to the anonymous need to keep the population treading water in the dark: we get traces of a theology that once might have sounded glorious, an ideology that might have once cast the future as bright and on dryland, but the disillusionment with the process is heard, the skepticism comes forth. It becomes nothing but a process for process sake: exhaustion, which Barth has used a key term in some of his essays on the problems of fiction narrative, hear becomes the theme of things being done for their own sake, un changed to the conditions that exist at the margins of a self-perpetuation lexicon. The promise that the swimmers hold out, after the poetry of their plighted is played out, is that all will be well when they reach the shore, is revealed as bunk: it is a promise that will be kept only in the dark, when one is still blind, thrashing about.

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