On “litchat”

by look i have opinions

“[David Foster Wallace] was both a formidably taxing reconstructor of literary form and an artist intent on presenting his readers with characters and situations that would move them, make them reconsider their own narrow understandings of each other and themselves and, as he often put it, feel less lonely. Like all great literature, his books do many things at once.

“Litchat, however, is singleminded. Seemingly, it can only conceive of a writer’s persona as one thing at a time: a prick, a detached brainiac, a suffering saint. Litchat is adamant, yes, and impervious to factual challenges, but that tends to be true of all strong opinions formed on a basis of incomplete and selective evidence. The weaker our footing, the more fiercely we defend it. We believe it not because it fits what we know—we know next to nothing, after all—but because we need to believe this particular thing at this particular time, regardless of what the truth may be. It suits our purposes to do so, and one of those purposes may be as flimsy as the desire to be excused from reading the books in question before telling the world what we think of them.”

—Laura Miller (x)

This phenomenon isn’t limited to books or the literati, of course. I remember how Al Gore became The Boring One and then (perhaps because boring doesn’t sell) The Exaggerator, despite having no particular tendency to exaggerate. And then The Climate Change Hero, because he appeared in (what I assume was) a decent documentary.

I hate how this affects Lolita. I’ve mentioned this before.