The sound of human voices waking before they drown

Reality, as Nabokov never got tired of reminding us, is the one word that is meaningless without quotation marks.

The appeal of Billy Collins is that compared with the frequently hieroglyphic obscurantism of his colleagues, his poems sound like they were tossed off in a couple of hours while he drank scotch and listened to jazz late at night (they weren’t; this is an illusion). A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was full of the same self-conscious apparatus that had bored everyone silly until it got tethered to what felt like someone’s “real life” (even if the author constantly reminded us how fictionalized that life was). At once desperate for authenticity and in love with artifice, I know all the moments are “moments”: staged and theatrical, shaped and thematized. I find I can listen to talk radio in a way that I can’t abide the network news — the sound of human voices waking before they drown.

— David Shields, Reality Hunger 

2 thoughts on “The sound of human voices waking before they drown

  1. “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
    By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
    Till human voices wake us, and we drown”.

    Ah, intertextuality! So often I stumble upon these similarities and wonder if they are intentional or unconscious. I suppose Barthes would call it the Text, or Vygotsky “the web of meaning”.

    I am new to WordPress and yours was one of the first blogs I stumbled upon. It is very refreshing to see someone reading within such a vast breadth of time and pulling such diverse and beautiful quotes from their findings.

    • Beverly,

      I have a feeling that this particular Prufrock similarity is a conscious borrowing — even if Shields doesn’t quite remember what he is borrowing from — because his book ‘Reality Hunger’ is in part an experiment in free-flowing mash-ups without citation.

      I’m glad you’ve found my blog of some interest and value, enough to have left such a thoughtful comment. I hope you enjoy WordPress. (And what a beautiful blog you have! and what a lot you’ve done to make it so in less than 24 hours! It’s like mine except nicer looking and with more original content!)

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