Returning from IDFA, I sit in the bath and rather than risk an electrifying death by trying to use the IDFA version of a google cardboard, I read a book about narrative and writing by Ursula Le Guin. She’s a master.
“To describe narrative as “rationalization” of the given or of events is a blind alley. In the telling of a story, reason is only a support system. It can provide casual connections; it can extrapolate; it can judge what is likely, plausible, possible. All this is crucial to the invention of a good story, a sane fantasy, a sound piece of fiction. But reason by itself cannot get from the crocodile to Cincinnati. It cannot see that Elizabeth is, in fact, going to marry Darcy, and why. It may not even ever quite understand who it was, exactly, that Oedipus did marry. We cannot ask reason to take us across the gulfs of the absurd. Only the imagination can get us out of the bind of the eternal present, inventing or hypothesizing or pretending or discovering a way that reason can then follow into the infinity of options, a clue through the labyrinths of choice, a golden string, the story, leading us to the freedom that is properly human, the freedom open to those whose minds can accept unreality.”
I sink under water to delight in the most pleasant paragraph I’ve read for some time.
This: “We cannot ask reason to take us across the gulfs of the absurd.” There is something there that relates to the leap we are asked to make as we put on the VR headset and cross the Styx into the other place. I am perfectly willing to make the leap, but only with the right boat and who will be the right boatman?
This extract is from a collection of her essays called “Dancing at the Edge of the World”, the first of which is called “The Space Crone” – which ends, “Into the space ship, Granny”. If there was a VR experience that ended like that I would be v pleased.
There was a man at the DocLab round table discussion morning on Monday in Amsterdam who made the plea “let us not return to the beginning and learn the lessons of a century of cinema all over again”… I wish I knew who he was. He was referring to the illusion of representation, and the shortcomings of Cinema Verite. The wish to harness the unreality of VR in the service of perfectly pixellated reality… hmm. Back to Ursula.