I’ve been thinking about the word pastiche a lot, with its bougie French flair, its ambivalent connotations, and its applicability not just to my life, but to pop culture in general. It fits so well with other artsy words: curation, collection, collage.
Per Wikipedia, pastiche exists among “mechanisms of intertextuality” as a style of derivative art that “celebrates, rather than mocks, the work it imitates.” A retweet, then; a reblog. Someone else’s expression I can breathe more life into by claiming it as my own – my Twitter page’s unique constellation of retweets and answers is my own.
Nonetheless, calling someone’s work “derivative” is still a common enough insult. It seems like the difference lies in whether the work stems from one or few very recognizable parties or whether it pulls in threads from a more eclectic mix of artists and thinkers and little jewels of culture. I’ve mentioned that I’m reading Moby Dick. It’s quite clearly about the anguish of the human condition – a futile search for the meaning, for a new language extracted from the unspoken. And yet, it’s also a very over-the-top whaling guide, a commentary on Judeo-Christian and Greek mythology, and a quirky representation of 19th century Nantucket Quaker culture. Lots going on there; as with life and art, we can’t distill it into a single coherent message (other than, perhaps, “Captain Ahab is batshit but whales are cool”).
Speech itself could be called pastiche, ritual, the reuse of words we’ve heard from the mouths of others. What is there but imitation? To find a voice is to find your proprietary blend of sources to imitate, consciously or otherwise.
Where am I going with this?
(I couldn’t think of anything new to “blog” about…)
Really, though, I’ve been in the typical bog of self-indulgent guilt because I’m reading too many books and articles at once. I’ll read a chapter of Moby Dick before switching over to Twitter, then Reddit, then Another Country, then odd pages from poetry collections, etc. etc. I have always struggled to hang on to a single source, a single thread at once, and I worry that that speaks to some undesirable Millennial condition the Boomers love to jeer about: so much scrolling! So many tabs! (Yes, that last one is a valid criticism.) Or it could speak to my most recent psychiatric explanation of Why I Am The Way I Am: ADHD. A learning disability.
There’s something to be said for synthesis, though, and for its child: pastiche. Perhaps trying to make a quilt of a million disparate sentences and images and banal realities is not the most efficient means of understanding the world. But I have some modicum of faith in this paradox: the more voices I can add to the cacophony in my head, the more likely I’ll be to make out the whispers of my own.
I want to believe things, and firmly. And loudly.