Guernica Magazine

Storytelling in the Age of Populism

Kenneth Goldsmith and Mikkel Rosengaard in conversation. The post Storytelling in the Age of Populism appeared first on Guernica.

In Mikkel Rosengaard’s debut novel The Invention of Ana (HarperCollins), a young intern becomes fascinated with the artist Ana Ivan and the story Ana’s parent’s have construed about her upbringing. Over the course of three months, Ana talks and the intern listens, setting in motion the novel’s central question: just how manipulative is narrative? It explores the idea that the stories we tell about ourselves and the ones we love mold not only our minds, but physical reality as well—time, space, our bodies—if they are told with enough conviction.

Telling a story is a form of seduction. And like seduction, it is never a one-way street. When we listen to someone speaking, we are already anticipating what is coming, crafting our responses, looking for patterns that might or might not exist. For the past twenty years, poet and critic Kenneth Goldsmith has explored the limits of language by performing vast conceptual poems. His seminal work Soliloquy (Granary Books) is a written account of every word spoken by the poet during one week in 1997. Goldsmith calls the book “an exercise in humility.” The poem is five hundred pages long, yet Goldsmith says hardly anything of value.

Since the 2016 election, literature is often asked to take a political stance. The assumption there is that if literature is to be more

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