Issue 4 - Dailiness
On the ferry ride back to Halifax after seeing a play in Dartmouth, a man I recognized from the audience approached me to ask if I had enjoyed the production. “Yes,” I replied, trying to be both enthusiastic and polite, “very much so.” The man expressed an enthusiastic regret for having bothered to see it at all. His criticism hinged on the fact that the play was too realistic: “A play isn’t a play if it’s just real life,” he said.
In the previous issue, I wrote that “there is a simple beauty in that mystery, in the search for accurate expression in the small, natural symmetry of the every day; in its completion, dailiness finds itself neither simple nor small. It’s more like a beginning.” I’ve been thinking more about this idea, of the beauty in dailiness and how it’s the beginning of – of something. When infused with something extra, the ordinary shifts – it becomes paranormal, sur-real (sur meaning “over, above, at the top of”), as if there were some pale gauze-like layering over-top of the commonplace. Surrealism is defined as “automatism by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought.”
I’m not trying to suggest that the play I saw was Surrealist, but since this man on the ferry was so quick to dismiss something that I had enjoyed for its attempt to illustrate “the real functioning of thought” – the beautifully ordinary details of dailiness – I had to reconsider my reaction.
David Foster Wallace believed that art, like philosophy, was a way of ordering life. In many of his works he tried to delineate and represent a certain process of thought. Wallace differed from other modernists and postmodernists, however, because the thoughts he wanted to explore were those of boredom: “lethargie…melancholy, saturninia, otiositas, tristitia; that is, to be confused with sloth and torpor and lassitude and eremia and vexation and distemper and attributed to spleen.” Further into the story “Wiggle Room,” excerpted from his unfinished manuscript and published in the March 9th New Yorker, Wallace’s narrator notes that “‘interesting’ first appears just two years after ‘bore.’ 1768. Mark this, two years after. Can this be so?”
Many of the works in this issue exhibit detritus and details from the every day – found hair elastics, a plastic bag caught in a tree, crumpled paper, a headache – but, because of their presence in this issue, they are presented as art. The line is fine: things like this accrue meaning when we give them meaning, and the real can become more than real when considered under some such gauze-like layer.
Harriet Alida Lye, Editor in Chief