Narrative exhaustion

Every story has been told. Every book has been written.

Since the dawn of the written word, we haven’t ceased to multiply the narratives. The prophets of literary doom have long proclaimed, with the voice of Cassandra and the confidence of the Delphic Pythia, the exhaustion of the epos.

We wax lyrical as we wane epic.

And yet, we find new stories to tell. Stories of magic and doom. Games of thrones and ends of the world. Strength and suffering. Self-reliance and community power.

We can’t have enough fiction, even though it’s real stories we want. Stories based on real events. Documentaries giving the illusion of fiction, unambiguous novels where we can easily identify others and ourselves with others. Images of feeling, scenes of action, ideas pretending to change the culture while reinforcing the climate.

No new story is truly novel and no old story, not even those from the dawn of memory, is truly outdated. We reread backwords in search of something we know we can’t find. And the more unreachable it is, the stronger the desire to possess it.

What do we really expect from a good story? Simply to be good. To take us back. Back to ourselves, to each other and to itself. The most enduring stories are precisely those that refuse to take us on clear, signposted paths. The adventure, yes, but more importantly, the missing answer to the perennial question.

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