A Change of Light, and Other Stories (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
In his essay-review “Peter Snook” (1836), Edgar Allan Poe made one of the first and clearest statements of the central principle of what should be known as “combinational” literary art, or, as Julio Cortázar calls it in his preface to 62: A Model Kit (1968, 1972), “combinatory art.” Poe, speaking there of the art of the short story, says that “the true invention is elaborate. There is no greater mistake than the supposition that a true originality is a mere matter of impulse or inspiration. To originate, is carefully, patiently, and understandingly to combine.”
This combinational art is not simply descriptive, either of an observable outer reality like that which literary realism attempts to describe or of a dogmatic inner reality like that one encoded in allegorical or symbolic art. It rather constructs new artistic models composed of the varied elements of inner and outer realities: facts, ideas, beliefs, memories, observations, speculations, wild imaginings, dreams, all of those elements of which our lives are composed which Poe called “the things and thoughts of Time.” The fantastic, duplicitous, and self-contradictory realities proposed in these literary models are certainly much closer to the complex realities of modern science than are the orderly (and scientifically quite out of date) models proposed by either...
(The entire section is 2038 words.)
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