Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Now for a digression from political fare, it is a delight to have discovered Russell Baker's "Growing Up," his memoir which I highly recommend. "Growing Up" is literature in the best possible sense of the word. There is no pretention to fact, only the sensual adoration of the living, breathing word, and watching that word transform into a continuum of self and other that exists only to recreate itself.

Underlying his love for language, Baker acknowledges that, in the final analysis, it's all fiction. What is that great line from Jean Cocteau? "Les choses que je conte sont les mesonges vrais;" the tales that I tell are truthful lies."

Am currently discussing the convergence of fact and fiction in Baker's memoir as part of a freshman college English class I'm teaching. The students are asked to consider if it's ever possible to be completely "factual" about oneself, or anything in one's life, except of course for the date of one's birth. Being alive is about constantly reinventing oneself, and celebrating the ability to be among the only upright animals with the capacity to do so.

"Only the imagination is real," William Carlos Williams once wrote; "Je est un autre," "I is another," said Jean-Arthur Rimbaud. We objectify ourselves, and it is only through the process of that objectivization that we discover what resides within us. "Give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth," says Antonin Artaud.

"Tell me who you are, and I will tell you how much you escape;" oh, and, I said that.