Furthest Right

The Psychological Novel

Tom Wolfe used this phrase for the type of novel currently in vogue, as it has been for the past fifty years: the psychological novel.

He is also known for his attacks on literary realism, or the idea that literature can linearly evoke reality through gritty detail, scenes of underage sodomy, and other details.

However, I think the psychological novel — exploring the inside of the human head by using tokens of the outside world — is what he really targets. Toni Morrison, Paul Mitchell, we’re looking at you.

The traditional novel shows a character making moral decisions based on reality, not based on the centerless inside of the mind, where they’re trying to pick the best option for themselves and therefore, are in arbitrary-land. Pynchon illustrated this best in the The Crying of Lot 49.

One reason many of us abandoned Joyce with Ulysses is that he went too far into the psychological novel. Where POTAYM showed us adaptation, Ulysses showed us compensation and cognitive dissonance. Lie back and think of England or, in Joyce’s case, a nice fresh potato.

We could apply the same to any art form. Metal now is the psychological album; tossing around random symbols from the past and trying to generate inspiration from those. It’s like all language cut off from reality — it makes sense internally, but does not correspond to the world, so it’s solipsistic/narcissistic in the best tradition of Crowdism (to join a Crowd, you must be thinking only of yourself, and using others to guarantee for you a selfish but impersonal outcome).

If a correspondence theory of truth is correct, and if thus for a sentence to be truth it has to correspond to the world in a way that mirrors the structure and matches parts of the sentence properly with parts of the world, then the structure of a true sentence would have to be mirrored in the world. But if, on the other extreme, a coherence theory of truth is correct then the truth of a sentence does not require a structural correspondence to the world, but merely a coherence with other sentences.

If there is an explanation of this similarity to be given it seems it could go in one of two ways: either the structure of thought explains the structure of reality, or the other way round.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Another word for the psychological novel, or realistic novel, is the artist-centric one. It’s like Twitter: this is what I see, so these tokens must mean something to you too. That’s in contrast to the traditional novel, which labored hard to find tokens shared between author and audience, even if the tokens were not the ones the artist had experienced that gave meaning to an event or events. Demanding the use of your own tokens is like demanding attention, or control; using shared tokens is like cooperation.

And as you know, there are only two models for human interaction: cooperation or control. Interestingly, they involve the same mechanisms. You cannot cooperate with everyone; you must control something. The question is what your primary means of achieving your goal is.

The psychological novel resembles CONTROL more than COOPERATION. It is not motivated by sharing of information, or transcendence of our individual boundaries; it is motivated by demanding you pay attention to static information and tokens that inspired another person. Its goal is not to cooperate; it’s to control your eyes and focus them on another individual, as if you noticing them might make them important enough in the human world to remove the sting of inevitable death from the world beyond.

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