In The Writing on the Wall, Schwartz questions the media foreclosure and approaches the mediated trauma in a different way, by acknowledging how it takes away the voice of the victim. She allows meaning to come to the event through understanding over time instead of through a media spectacle that fills in the silence with endless voices, each a parody of the other. The ubiquitous media continues to flood the background throughout her novel to demonstrate how it shapes the American consciousness after 9/11 and influences all aspects of society. The media exists as a constant reminder of how literature needs to crack the all consuming nature of the spectacle and interrupt its influence in order to allow ethical response.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Foreclosure on the Wall
Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s The Writing on the Wall confronts the media blitz that occurred in the days directly following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Characters routinely find themselves “in front of the TV. Watching the thing happen over and over.” The media is portrayed as ubiquitous, repetitive, and impossible to escape as the infotainment genre takes hold of its audience. Even “in a coffee shop on the boardwalk the TV was on, no escape even at the edge of the sea.” The seductive images become more and more real in their repetition and people confuse reality with the media representation. Renata, the novel’s protagonist, falls prey to the media “fantasies, she didn’t see [9/11] happen, although she’s seen it so many times since that it feels like she saw it.” The footage substitutes for her experience in that it shapes reality and ultimately becomes her perception of reality. She too is drawn in by the bright colors and music in which the news is packaged and by the horrific carnage of the footage. As a New Yorker, it is her environment that forms the backdrop for the media attention that effectively forecloses any and all reaction other than a return to the routine of everyday domestic life and blind acquiescence to authority. Schwartz focuses on the powers that define 9/11 by confronting the media aesthetic that confuses and distracts, allowing meaning to be foreclosed by a simplistic rhetoric of good and evil, vengeance and national pride. A linguistic dichotomy is formed between the simplistic explanations that basic terms offer and words that contain greater nuance and allow for a more meaningful engagement.