Sunday, October 25, 2020
The spread : breadth and depth
The Topeka School'. I enjoyed reading 'Leaving the Atocha Station' but this is altogether a more complex, more ambitious work of auto-fiction. The theme that concerns me here is what he calls 'the spread'. Briefly, in Lerner's world of high school debating 'the spread' is an important tactic. The spread, in the narrator's words, is 'to make more arguments, marshal more evidence than the other team can respond to within the allotted time'. As the novel unfolds the spread becomes an important trope and it stands in for the way in which we can feel paralysed by torrents of information, complex demands on our attention and so on. The popular idea of 'overwhelm' is something similar. And it is rather different from the personal library and the notes on scraps of paper which are attempts - and only attempts - to select, simplify and perhaps to go deeper into things. The spread is wide, overwhelming, destabilising and, in Lerner's world at least, it characterises the times we live in.