Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Theses about commercial fiction, consumer societies

1. Commercial fiction exists to justify the status quo, and make such justifications be experienced as pleasure, either through flattering the reader for his ability to predict what will happen or dignifying his typical circumstances or positing fantasies that dovetail with what commercial markets profess to offer.

2. Commercial fiction thrives on the reader's isolation, which allows his fantiasies to develop unchecked in the channels provided by the fiction and allows for a more absorbing suspension of disbelief. This corresponds well with how the consumer society relies on isolated consumers to permit a wider array of unnecessary purchases and to allow unsubstantiated claims about products and the lifestyles they purport to provide go unchecked. Resistance, even to the flimsy premises of genre fiction and advertisements, requires social organization--you need a network of communication outside of mass media to set up a discourse counter to it. Isolation, on the other hand, streamlines acquiescence.

3. Vicarious participation is a prerequisite of both commercial fiction and commercial societies. In both instances we must be prepared to enjoy our emotions more thoroughly through proxies than through direct experience of nature or society. We must be prepared to choosed mediated forms of experience, because of the illusion of control it affords us, over direct, spontaneous, unpredictable "natural" experiences.

4. Plausibility may be redefined within the realm of commercial fiction to suit the consumer society's requirements. Reading commerc ial fiction reconfigures the plausibility threshold so that only matters inconsequential to commerce and consumerist fantasy are rejected as "unrealistic."

5. The question of the commericial novel's form may best be seen as a problem of industrial design.

6. The commercial novel was one of the first commodities, and as such, it contributed to the notions that acquiring goods constitutes a story itself. The dream world we enter in fiction is akin to the dream lifestyle a good hopes to posit for us via its ads. A story unfolds, closure is obtained (the good is purchased) and a new story must begin. Commercial novels, in being utterly worthless after they are read once, are emblematic of consumer goods generally, which become beside the point of pleasure once acquired. (example: the home espresso machine. Note how many of these you find in thrift stores.)

7. Our facility at enjoying commercial fiction, adopting to its conventions and enjoying its foreshortenings and its illusions, makes us able to enjoy shopping more -- its necessary pre-purchase fantasizing, how ads are metonyms for powerful narratives of our values, how there can be a dramatic arc to our market experience.

8. Connoiseurship in the market -- the quest for distinctive goods -- has roots in the connoiseurship of feeling, experienced vicariously through the earliest commercial novels and the taste in reading it allow to be expressed.

9. Pleasure does not preexist systems of distribution and consumption. It manifests itself through those systems; the shape pleasure can take is defined by those systems. The 18th century commercial novel is an artifact of first forms of pleasure enabled by capitalism. (Needs are "set free" by economic growth.)

10. For commercial novels as well as consumer societies, anticipation is far more important than satisfaction.

1 comment:

  1. OK Rob. First off I wanna say dope blog. I dig your analyses. I first got hip by reading your article on popmatters.com, Indecent Consumption which I found very on point and overwhelming. I agree porn could be the reason for DSL at home and all that but I got issues with one point which you sorta revisit in Wed.March 30's entry concerning fiction/paperbacks and their role in consumerist culture where you write about experiencing pleasure thru proxies such as dirty porn for ex. In the popmatters.com column basically you say "by turning sexual desire into something serviceable by goods rather than ppl,porn makes sex into consumption", my thing is sex has always been consumption. James Brown said a woman gotta use what she got to get what she wants.Right?Whatabouthos? What about dudes who after surfing porn for hours dont wanna jerk off they wanna a flesh and blood whore? With hookers you search until you find the one you want right? How does the net differ? As I see it closing the gap between wanting and having as far as booty goes aint that hard. The hooker is also a capitalist phenom, more personalized than the internet vixen. I'd like to see you get into that.Peace.

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