Is great art simply about slowing down? The New Yorker's Shahnaz Habib relates
an interesting exchange he witnessed last week:
philosopher Simon Critchley spoke with the novelist Amit Chaudhuri.
"Nothing happens in your work," Critchley said, a comment which, under
the circumstances, was a compliment. While the rest of the country was
in the final days of midterm frenzy, these two literally had nothing on
Chaudhuri responded by quoting Auden: "Poetry is that which makes nothing happen."
Then of course Waiting for Godot is brought up, and Habib spells the common question: "Can we really tell stories in which nothing happens?" Habib
is reminded of Kurt Vonnegut's idea about Hamlet: that the play "ends
pretty much where it starts out," thus revealing truth, which is "so
rarely" told. So here's Habib's extension of the principle:
of us are in the business of making things happen. Countries have to be
rescued from financial crises, the hero has to find the ring, we have
to complete our to-do lists. But this is what Vonnegut and Shakespeare
and Satyajit Ray seem to have known: it is the moments in between, when
nothing happens and we are fully alive to witness it, that truth
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