JH: As one takes what one needs or wants from an author, and outlines an author in a few brushstrokes, be they broad or delicate, one could do the same for a literary movement. Do you think an entire collection of authors routinely get treated as a single author? Why do you think a versatile artist (one who writes in a variety of genres and also paints - D.H. Lawrence is an example) tends to get marginalized or has areas of his/her output marginalized - does it have to do with the same focus that would treat a collection of authors as one, a refusal to treat a single artist as a variety of artists? Why are a group of authors within a self-defined movement often singled (ha ha) out from the rest of that group? Is there a tendency among readers and commentators to reduce all down to a single author (I'm not using "reduce" in a pejorative sense - I originally went for "simplify" but that was similarly loaded -- ah! how about "Is there a tendency among readers and commentators to unload all trappings to find an essential, which is regarded as the individual - a nucleus?"). Is this a product of how humans think (brain construction, rather than social habit), or does it have something to do with a method of reading? So the writer I'd like to riff on is the imaginary author, and aren't they all? Are you feeling imaginary yet? I know I am.
AHB:I feel imaginary, certainly. I think you'd have to be pretty socially busy as a writer not to feel imaginary, and even so you're probably missing the obvious sensation, pumpkins in the closet, perhaps. And tho I feel a calling as a writer--call it a binding commitment—because I'm not such a great reader (of the works of others, I mean) or critic, I feel somewhat out of my depth. That's just a taste of my neurotic side, tho, with which I have my dances. You open a good topic here. I watched the Bob Dylan documentary the last 2 nights on PBS. Dylan presents an extreme case of an artist. His huge popularity magnifies the "role" (oh gawd!) of the artist, as perceived. That is (do you notice that I often make a statement, then restate it in a way that's (I hope) more clear? I'm figgering things out as I go), Dylan was embraced universally (obviously I mean that loosely), as a voice of a generation, or a moral view, or the whole kit and kaboodle. He's just writing songs, but this burden of import, wowzer. Every artist grapples with that, tho few (Picasso, for instance) to such an extent. Excuse me, Allen, they grapple with what? With whatever the hell the artist qua artist is doing, verb transitive, is worth doing, not just for him/herself but for others, strangers, the world... I don't walk around with that headache pressing down, that's Truman Capote In Hollywood kind of shit, but it does mean I wonder about the wobbly mass out there that might read what I write, and that might "take it to heart". Isn't that a funny idea! And yet control sequences exist that plug LANGUAGE (for instance) poets as a corporate entity, so that Silliman = Hejinian = Perelman = Howe = Bernstein = ANYONE who hasn't published in Poetry. The commitment of approaching each writer, and each work of that writer, as a unique voice in the chorus: yes, it's tough, but yes it is imperative (and no, I'm not saying I'm such a great worker in the vineyard myself). An academic sorting process exists as the fierce work of the non-gods, but artists, you and I even, must plod on. Please riff on as you see fit.