Small Talk

My literary nonfiction piece, “Small Talk,” got published in the 23rd (October) issue of Kritika Kultura. I’m not proud of it because I think it remains self-indulgent (despite what it might be saying about self-indulgent talk), but I found the process of writing it engaging as much as it was painful, and I learned a lot from the depth of the introspection demanded by that process. I began writing it when I read an excerpt from Autoportrait by Edouard Leve featured in The Paris Review as “When I Look at a Strawberry, I Think of a Tongue” and decided to try a similar exercise in identity-construction by way of “objectivity” and fragmentation. I posted the first draft here as “After Leve.”  I continued to write it in part because people who can go on and on and on about themselves in “regular conversation” (i.e. not on Facebook or Twitter and the like, where self-involvement is the norm) amaze me. I wonder whence comes their apparent belief that fascination inheres in the minutiae of their everyday lives, such that even casual acquaintances would be thrilled to listen to their talk. I usually keep mum when I find myself caught in such conversations, which often concern things of little import or relevance to people outside the talker’s self and circle of intimates, but which, it seems, many people feel impelled to talk about. Why? Is it because we wish to be understood, to be admired, to have others experience ourselves the way we experience ourselves or how we wish to experience ourselves? I also wonder about the distinctions between “personal” and “private,” “self-aware” and “self-concerned,” about whether navel-gazing deserves all the flak it gets and the reasons for that derision. “Small Talk” doesn’t try to answer those questions, but to perform them.

Oh, another thing I learned in writing that piece: how swiftly things change, and how blindsiding it can get. :)

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