The Big Lie
Penngrove: Avec, 2000
Good advice for being in the Army: stay flexible. (42)
Flexibility incarnate: a series of scenes, manifestos, situations, moments, shots, thoughts, circumstances, attempts, a collection of short, to-the-point, digressive stabs, The Big Lie lays the porous, unstable foundation of its own iterative and philosophical demise. “Consider the author of this book,” muses the aristocrat, his face “lined and bloated with the excesses of his long vice,” (47) “…when he speaks most directly is when he most lies; he is perfect in his insincerity. He discovers at every instant that he is saying something he never before intended, and that is his art…” (49) Wallace’s art is to combine art/literary theory, artifice and, strangely, heart to undermine any sense of art (or anything) as fixedly anything, so that even the instability of subject, voice, narrative, or poetics cannot fall into doctrine or dogma, as The Big Lie gives the lie to the BIG LIE:
See, the BIG LIE has helped make too many artists into assholes for too long, it’s made too much art into an excuse for assholes, which in turn feeds perfectly the purposes of the BIG LIE, which is to make art the same as politics, business, government, etc.—i.e., BIG LIE excuses that let assholes go on being assholes. I’ll tell you this much, and hope you’ll agree—I like art sometimes, but I never like assholes. (10)
Mark Wallace is not an asshole. Through little lies, small vignettes both insignificant and significant, moments sincerely, clearly expressed yet utterly opaque, lacking in sincerity, which have truth to them but are not “true,” Wallace writes to undermine Writing, makes art that undermines Art. This literate, itinerant collision of distinct anecdotes—we might call them windows—does not partake of any traditional narrative “fleshing out,” those sinews that weave a text into a kind of coherence which might read as incoherent in the context of our fragmented, fast, non-cohering world.
Clocks may tell us there is continuum, that one moment becomes the next, but there’s no truth to it. One’s body is simply the instant of its own passing, available for pleasure or pain as the occasion admits. People do not exist. (48)
In the lie we have infinite lives limited only by the abundance or boundary of imagination, dare, will or willing suspension of belief, unnecessary as the joy is in the false and is false, though no less for it. Or the lie is that in the lie or anywhere we have infinite lives limited only by imagination. The Big Lie at once posits—if it can be said that a text so flexible “posits”—immense cynicism and immense, well, if not exactly optimism, then a certain immensity of potential, and a definite pleasure in the flex of language.
It’s a morass, I know. That’s why I like it. (18)
– Jen Hofer