Writer Ander Monson turns all this on its head in an interesting way. Being incessantly bombarded by small bits of narratives, he says, is to “experience the past . . . the distant, darkened past” in the sense that one feels palpably what it was like to be in a labyrinth such as the one Daedalus built for the monster known as the Minotaur according to Greek myth. It provides an ancient analogy for the experience of “ trying to find the line of ascent in a wall of information; the trail of URLs I click through in my morning’s misinforming.” In current terms,
then, the labyrinth becomes the Internet itself and itsendless information.
Pondering this brings him round to the fundamental experience of our contemporary lives today: “It’s dark down here,” Monson writes, “and lonely. I am drawn mostly, insistently to the human voice. How powerful and necessary the solo voice, the experience of being someone, something else for a little while.” Expressing this experience, Monson declares, will remain what he calls “literature’s killer app” because the act of writing about it is concerned with words and hence “impervious to the threat by everything that’s not the word.”
It is a journey into the darkness not unlike the one that T.S. Eliot described it in “East Coker” as he described his own battle with writing:
“And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate . . .
And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate . . .
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious.”
Unpropitious indeed are our times. Yet it is heartening to see these writers probing to find the common threads of our experience and try to express what it means to be human today.