Rendered Fat Content


Oskar Schlemmer: Bauhaus Stairway (1932)
" … wisdom can only come after already expending altogether too much time and energy and effort overthinking these questions."

I don't usually identify myself as an Avant guarde writer, but I've been rethinking that notion since The Muse introduced me to a woman who advertises herself as an Avant Gardener. In most ways, I suppose, she's a traditionalist, but she brings a twist to her focus. Sure, she can spout off Latin plant names, but she imagines them in unusual combinations, in places where no traditionalist would ever consider placing them. In this respect, then, she fully qualifies as an Avant designer, Avant meaning 'combining forms.' In a similar way, I guess, I might qualify as an Avant writer, since, I, too, combine forms to produce a unique result. Reading one of my manuscripts produces different sensations for me than does reading others' work. I thought the differences mere quirks at first and found myself rather embarrassed by them. As I've reflected upon my experience, though, I see a sort of signature emerging. This must be emblematic of David's writing, how he does it. It's not precisely wrong, but different. Whether it produces pleasing sensations might be a different question.

One should always question how to judge the quality of any Avant creation, for comparing it should properly prove problematic.
This holds triply true for its creator, for a producer identifies with his creations and might back into an identity crisis should he struggle to identify within which clan or school or tribe he belongs. Poet? Essayist? Commentator? Journalist? Novelist? Humorist? Inspirationalist? Memorialist? Complaintant? None Of The Above-ist? To claim to belong to some formerly unlabeled clique, as each successive Avant artist once did, at first serves to provide no identity at all. Often, the label gets assigned by some observing critic, anyway, who inadvertently defines an eventual identity like Impressionist or Pointillist or Post Modernist, one the artist might reject from the outset yet still find themself laboring within. Modernist seems destined to eventually outdate itself.

Identity issues seem most likely to turn into life or death deals since a lack of identity so easily seems like a kind of death. No Avant artist gets to thrive while still trying to nail down his niche, for his work seems like so much vanity without possessing a framework within which to consider it. It should properly seem unfinished if no completion criteria exists. Before Bauhaus became a movement it was an eccentricity, a practice lacking an over-arching identity, with little impact. Once it more or less discovered itself and began taking itself seriously (far too seriously, some insisted), it became a movement with rules for inclusion and exclusion, practitioners and devotees, and later emerged as a respected profession. Before then, it just seemed a weird mutation, after, an Avant manifestation. It became something.

Authoring has shoved me into a bit of an identity crisis. The question, "What other works does this work resemble and how did they fare in the marketplace?" completely baffles me, as I suppose it should. It remains a prominent Fundamentally Unanswerable Question, one which, since fundamentally unanswerable, has no proper answer associated with it. It might be an incantation intended to induce an identity crisis within any pitching author. A question to suck the wind out of their sails and shove them back on their tails. If this book has already been written and already satisfied that corner of the market, if the pitching author could identify a work almost exactly like what he's produced, that discovery might utterly undermine the reason for publishing his creation. If he cannot identify which class his work belongs to, he might have produced a weird mutation rather than an Avant manifestation. Nobody ever goes shopping for anything they've never seen before and few people succeed selling weird mutations, though on the internet, there might be exceptions.

I think that perhaps a resolution lies in acceptance. This manuscript is just what it is and it might well be viewed through any of a variety of lenses. It's 'identity' might be whatever anybody decides it is and while certainly any reader's conclusion might well be influenced by an author's or a publisher's framing, the reader gets to make his own decision. He'll classify the work as he sees fit, not (and not ever) as any author or publisher intended. In this sense, each reader might well be appreciated as an Avant reader, for she or he or it actively combines their perspectives and experiences to interpret. It might qualify as a sin of self importance to waste too much time or energy or effort overthinking just who any author is or the identity his work exhibits. This understanding, of course, like all wisdom, can only come after already expending altogether too much time and energy and effort overthinking these questions. Avant remains in the eye of the beholder, including the author.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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