Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dear A. S. Byatt

On the Guardian website this afternoon there’s an interview with A. S. Byatt, a favorite novelist of mine. I first came to her with Possession, a deliciously dense literary romance. It’s a highly allusive book, both literally and virtually as she creates her own fictive 19th century poets whom the twenthieth century characters pursue. In the context of that quest, it is a romance in the medieval sense as well, a kind of virtual romance if you will. Nevertheless, my favorite novel of hers is The Virgin in the Garden which takes place during an Elizabethan festival in Yorkshire celebrated during the coronation of Elizabeth II. The festival is also a virtual counterpart and foil to the bare, parsimonious life of post war England.

Now, what I find curious and humorous is that in the Guardian Interview, Byatt discusses “the blogosphere,” Facebook and twittering and states that they have replaced god for many people. She says that the name “Facebook” is telling because people need it to show themselves who they are. She finishes by stating that she would like to see someone who can explore such lives in fiction but she is too old.

I disagree completely. She’s “up in the night,” as a favorite grandmother of mine used to say meaning that someone was utterly wrong-headed. Facebook, etc. have nothing to do with anyone’s belief in the existence of god. What they are part of is the increasing spectrum of virtuality that now inflects all experience. It’s a broad spectrum indeed, subsuming something as simple as cell phone communication and extending to the richness and complexity of virtual worlds found in computer gaming.

Given the parallel worlds present in most of her work, the virtual connections she makes in the two seminal novels of hers mentioned above I’m surprised she doesn’t feel equipped to explore it. Or maybe it’s just that she thinks her virtualities lie outside of that spectrum. I don’t think they do.

No comments: