‘Confessional literature has become a metaphorical striptease’


Image via This Isn’t Happiness

From The New Inquiry:

Literature’s undeniable resemblance to gossip illuminates what is most useful about it, what causes literary works to endure. In her 1982 essay “In Praise of Gossip” in The Hudson Review, Patricia Meyer Spacks claims that gossip can function as “healing talk,” treating “the sickness repeatedly described as characteristic of society —anomie, impersonality, rootlessness.” Gossip can heal by personalizing us to one another, de-anonymizing, making us known. Nabokov once described good writing as “a person-to-person call.” Such literature is an intimate act, one person speaking specifically to another and making them feel recognized.

But the desire to be known intimately, in our digital age, quickly blurs into the desire for a new kind of easily achieved celebrity. In the impulsive milieu of the Internet, with its promise of instant publication and countless readers, confessional literature has become a metaphorical striptease, in which more nakedness promises more fame, and the more significant revelatory purposes of literature are lost to the immediate gratification of titillation.

“Open Secrets: Literature as Gossip in the Digital Age”, Helena Fitzgerald, The New Inquiry