Frank questions my interrogation of the positive value of “authenticity”: “Mark Woods has linked to this post, giving it more substance and weight than I think it deserves. The Hermenaut link is as much piffle as the Fishko presentation. Either can be criticized or enjoyed for the superficial mind candy that each of them is.”
One way of getting at my dissatisfaction, Frank, is to confess that I’m a very careful, deliberate writer. That’s my style; were I to try to write more spontaneously, with more of the visceral spontaneity that characterizes Jeneane’s writing, I think it would be inauthentic for me (in the sense that it would give a false impression of my character and my typical mode of expression). To that extent, careful writing is authentic for me, that’s the kind of guy I am; and no-holds-barred vividness is authentic for Jeneane. [Side note: I’m picking on Jeneane here because she’s put a lot of energy into advocating her visceral bloggery, which is great with me and I admire her style, and also because she knows I think she rocks, so she’s not likely to construe my argument here as an attack on her or her
chosen authentic style.)
But many people use the term “authentic” to mean, “baring the performer/writer’s inmost feelings, holding nothing back” — and to those who use the term that way, the style of writing that best fits my gnereal persona would likely seem inauthentic, inasmuch as I express myself in measured, deliberate prose. I do bar some holds. I do hold back some of my thoughts and feelings.
Which is why I raise the question, “authentic to what?” Do I fail the test of authenticity if I don’ write more like Jeneane?
Or to put it another way (because I admire Shelley, and I want to share out my links), if we were to find out that the Burning Bird’s phoenix-song were very carefully composed, to convey the effect of having been written by someone very much like the Shelley we imagine when we read her heartfelt, sometimes very pointed, clarion-calls — would that be inauthentic? What degree of deliberation and painstaking composition disqualify a recording or literary work from the category of “authenticirty”? A brilliantly gifted writer, after all, may well be able to depict impassioned spontaneity with utterly convincing prose. Is it only authentic if she really felt it?
The Hermenaut article’s invocation of Philip K Dick touches on the point for which I’m arguing. The relation between “the convincing artifice of genuineness” and “heartfelt painstakingly-devised prose” defies a binary taxonomy of authenticity. I like hearing the mistakes and rough edges when some performers play, the eyebrow-scorching graphic explicitness of some writers’ prose — and the elegant precision in some performers’ recordings, and some writers’ fine, exquisitely-assembled literary compositions. I like them all, authentically. Or not.