Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Blog Is About You...

To writers, singers, thespians, artists and even politicians and athletes I ask "Who is your audience?" There are probably two answers to this. For the first you might cobble together a fan base, financial or emotional supporters and perhaps a general age group/demographic plus some friends and family. But the response closer to your heart, one you may not even acknowledge, is probably an audience of one, an absent parent, a dead friend, a busy mentor, a god, a demon, a potential lover, an invisible soul mate. The more impossible, the better...meaning...the more intense the pursuit, the more constant the calling. In a mediated era in which people entertain social sites with thousands of friends these two kinds of audiences may seem quite polar, but that's the point/gap worth contemplating. What better reactionary way for a scorned lover to show resilience than to boast an astronomical number of friends, post fun-in-the-sun pictures of a recent trip to Aruba and publicize a new love once all other access to someone has terminated. The difference now is that the exhibitionist can "use" more than just a friend or two to make his or her point. He or she can, in fact use a thousand people or more in the needy throws of emotional turbulence.

That being said, the audience of one is not so easy to pinpoint. There may be layers of humans involved (the Carly Simon composite), with only one, original core, whose most recent reincarnation may be the most highly exposed. All of this is pretty basic psychology and a bit too sophomoric to follow through with...but...I think what is interesting is the layering in the broad-cast message. The veneer may be "I'm doing great without you" but the wake behind that may be wide and long. Perhaps it's a frank, continuing dialogue, advice, a friendship or another kind of relationship that should have been salvaged through all else. These are personal unsolved mysteries.

The relationship to this most intimate audience is best explored by the Harvard University professor and poetry/literary critic, Helen Vendler in three hours of online lectures recorded at Princeton from April 14-16 2004 and titled Speaking to Invisible Listeners: George Herbert and God: Intimacy with the Better Self; Walt Whitman and the Reader in Futurity: Intimacy with the Longed-for Camerado; John Ashbery and the Artist of the Past: Intimacy with a Vanished Twin.

To listen, click on the link below and search "invisible"


Vendler's discussion of the lyric voice annihilating distances with utopian mergings removes us from the lone, desperate acts and helps us understand what it means to be an intimate friend, answering with improvements...answering "a speaker's questions using his very own syllables."