Babushka Dolls

In his Hypertext 3.0, George Landow writes, “Michael Heim, who believes loss of authorial power to be implicit in all electronic text, complains: ‘Fragments, reused material, the trails and intricate pathways of “hypertext,” as Ted Nelson terms it, all these advance the disintegration of the centering voice of contemplative thought’ (Landow 129),” but has there ever really been a centering voice that was not merely illusory?  Has there ever really been an author, or has it always merely been the disembodied voice of the campfire storyteller who endlessly tells new variations on the same stories told since time immemorial?

And on the third day, we went to go find his body in the cave, and it was GONE!


About Chuck Caruso

writer of dark fiction (crime, horror & western noir), literary & textual scholar (american gothic, noir, po-co, sf), and cultural critic View all posts by Chuck Caruso

3 responses to “Babushka Dolls

  • Chris

    Really, how different can our stories get? In the broadest sense, I would argue that we all exist in the same realm, we are all experiencing things through similar mechanisms (our bodies, our senses, our relationship to the outside world, collective understanding of language), so it would seem logical that despite millions of possible variations, there has to be a finite number of “stories.” After all, aren’t they making yet another Nightmare on Elm Street movie?

    Chris 2.0 (a.k.a. my alternate persona)

  • The First of May

    So yesterday I was talking with an fantasy writer friend of mine and she was all charged up about the accusations facing JK Rowling concerning the Hugo Award winning fourth volume of the Harry Potter series. My pal couldn’t believe how “vindictive and stupid and thieving and lazy” Rowling is for selling a story based on another writer’s “framework.” I wondered, out loud and unfortunately, whether or not “the hero’s journey” isn’t necessarily a “framework” but, rather, a storytelling material as old as time which has thus far supported hundreds of texts and exists to feed something dark and deep within our psyches. I tell you, with all seriousness, the woman’s bottom lip started to quiver and she couldn’t help but burst into tears sobbing about the “death of creativity” and “the publishing industry’s carelessness and apathy.”

    Nesting dolls. That’s all there is.

  • suevi

    To play with your last remark and with the problem of authorship, who will say Ecce Homo and why? Those who dispute authorial power might say “Behold the man!” to point out how ordinary and temporary the author is. He (or she) is just a human without access to some divine language that might support his right of authority. Rather than borrowing language from the gods, he merely borrows it from other speakers and writers as well as from his listeners and readers. Anyone who beholds the man might think, “Under different circumstances, that could be me up there suffering that same criticism. In fact, the only difference is that he claims to be an author.”

    The defender of the author might reply that the charge is both true and false. He is a human, yes, but also an instrument of some absolute transmitter of authority. The words that pass through him have a coherent authority because of their source. Language is a special power that raises humans above the other animals; language under the power of authorship raises the author above other humans who might casually use those same words. Coherence–like that of the carefully crafted narrative–is a property of things that are well-made. “Behold the man who is the author! His narrative is complete and completely his.”

    Well, I’ve already borrowed too much as a writer to really believe in the dominance of the author. But I also like to think of the reader as being in the same position. Most of what we know, we must learn. Why go to Paris? Millions have people have been there before you. Yet anyone can reply, “But I haven’t.” Experience what others have done, reword it as it pleases you, and pass it on. Maybe “Tell me something I don’t know” is cynical only when we value the illusion of the singular experience that the dominant author seems to offer.


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