05 September 2007

The Moral Argument of Talking Dogs

The Rake on James Wood's criticism of "hysterical realism":
His puffed-up preferences are not moral imperatives.

I happen to disagree with Wood, but in invoking moral objections he's already denied me equal textual footing for a rebuttal. Certain metatextual questions remain in play: We can talk, for example, about whether or not Robert Lowell should have incorporated his ex-wife's letters into his work, but I fear I'm not willing or able to sustain a moral argument for or against Pynchon's decision to include a talking dog and a mechanical duck in Mason & Dixon rather than more conventional, rounded human characters. To engage a moral argument about such things is to be led down the primrose path by Wood, where we will engage in narrowing the novel instead of celebrating its manifold possibilities.