Monday, August 30, 2010

"No Solution," Wendy Doniger, 1999

More old notes from basement cleaning and packing, these from interviews with the great scholar of myth Wendy Doniger, whom I profiled for The Chronicle of Higher Education in 1999, I think. Her short book on method, The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth, is one of my favorite books about writing. Even though it's not about writing.

In one of our conversations, she cited Levi-Strauss's idea that "myths tackle problems that have no solution." I said that in the context of her work, that made me think of a novelist knowingly wading into a doomed attempt to resolve a plot. "That's an interesting way of putting it," Doniger answered.
That explains to me why I drive my publishers crazy. Because I hate to produce conclusions. I tell all these stories and I have ideas about them, and I say, "Look at this, did you notice that, I know another story that sheds some light on it." Then I want to go home. And my publisher says, "What's the answer? What's the solution?" And I usually have to make something up for the book. But my heart isn't in it because I usually think there is no solution. It's just an interesting way of talking about the problem. I'm a mythologist.
I also salvaged an index card on which I'd written a comment from another conversation with Doniger: "There are so few interesting questions, and so many interesting answers."