We Grotesques

The grotesque is a literary technique as much as it’s a metaphor for a pervasive and uniquely human psychological malady, namely, forgetting that whatever a person thinks about and values continually, toward this his mind-self-soul-character will incline by force of habit. Let’s call this capacity “imaginative conception,” although Anderson doesn’t name it as such. In the opening vignette, Anderson’s riff goes a little something like this (to the tune of Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man“): We are born of thoughts we baptize truths. There are many truths. (Not brute physical facts, but beliefs and values to live by, etc.) There are truths of passion. Truths of wealth. Of justice. And truths of the intellect. We fashion these truths, we appropriate them, and we do our best to live by them. In the hustle and bustle of life or as a result of a failure of the imagination, we grotesques forget that the kernel of personality consists of notions that populate our minds. We grotesques forget that we are our own source, in a very important respect. As Roth memorably remarks, “The treacherous imagination is everyone’s maker.”

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