December 19, 2015

"To choose to live without gossip is to scorn storytelling. And to scorn storytelling is to join the anthill, where there are no secrets to pry open."

Writes the novelist Cynthia Ozick in a NYT column titled "The Novel’s Evil Tongue."
Everything essential to storytelling is explicitly forbidden: Keep your tongue from speaking evil, no bearing false witness, no going up and down as a talebearer among your people.... Under the influence of the evil tongue, 10,000 stories and novels, before and since, have insinuated themselves into our sin-seeking world.... They are made by go-betweens, by whisperers and tattletales, by ironists and miscreants, by jesters and mourners, and always by the fevered bearers of false witness.

Yet even Solomon’s Proverbs, that ancient well of prudence, in one of its seemingly admonitory homilies, reveals — against its intent — a fierce intuition for the shattering force of storytelling: “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s innermost parts.”

A man’s innermost parts! A woman’s innermost parts! Interpret this as you will, it all comes down to the self-conscious and vulnerable organ that humanity once dared (defiantly, subversively) to call Soul — where gossip longs to tread.

19 comments:

Gahrie said...

A woman defending gossip.....dog bites man.

traditionalguy said...

Words that get into our souls are weapons of control that can be submitted to or can be resisted with words of confrontation. Pretending not to hear them is a short term delay to making that decision.

The Muslim cult of murder demands a submission to words, like the Muslim ones being taught to American children as mere Geography appreciation for a superior Arab culture demanding submission.

Sebastian said...

"They are made by go-betweens, by whisperers and tattletales, by ironists and miscreants, by jesters and mourners, and always by the fevered bearers of false witness." Mostly the latter now. Prog Creative Writing grads writing for the sentimental entertainment of middle-class Prog women, titilating the innermost ladyparts. Seven years of O and not a "jester" in sight -- unless you count Dreams from My Father. Though that also falls under "bearers of false witness." Maybe Ms. Ozick will find the time to pry open a secret or two, ideally in fewer words, but I'm not counting on it.

Sal said...

Gossip is the steady deliverer of secrets, the necessary divulger of who thinks this and who does that, the carrier of speculation and suspicion.

Gossip allows us to live in larger communities than we could otherwise because we don't need to personally know someone to know about them -- a big advantage as we evolved as a species.

hiawatha biscayne said...

"no going up and down as a talebearer among your people." oh my goodness. what planet does she live on?

Laslo Spatula said...

"Under the influence of the evil tongue, 10,000 stories and novels, before and since, have insinuated themselves into our sin-seeking world..."

That doesn't even include blogs and their comments.

Regarding "A woman’s innermost parts!":

As has been discussed before, I have been to Scarlett Johannson's innermost parts, and I find it a soulful experience.

I am Laslo.

Chuck said...

You may have awoken me, Althouse, to genuine, heartfelt belief in a literal interpretation of the bible. At least a portion of the bible. Those are some great words of wisdom, scorning gossip.

PhilaGuy said...

"Against its intent"? On the contrary, Solomon expected his readers to understand this very thing.

David said...

I would almost always get my car washed when I went to Madison.

Why? Because the Octopus was very easy to find. Plus they did a decent job.

David said...

The anthill? Now that's a microagression.

buwaya puti said...

Gossip is a sin that builds upon sins, which happens most when the leaders are corrupt and the people are immoral.

buwaya puti said...

Confucius say -
"To gossip and spread rumors is to abandon virtue".
Art or literature is not necessarily virtuous, and a defense of a lack of virtue through a defense of art is illogical.

Ann Althouse said...

""no going up and down as a talebearer among your people." oh my goodness. what planet does she live on?"

The planet that has the Bible, which is what she is talking about.

Freeman Hunt said...

How is literature gossip? The characters are not actual people.

hiawatha biscayne said...

"The planet that has the Bible, which is what she is talking about." Yes, you're right, of course. What I meant to say was that the article, the writing style, is impenetrable to me. Really bad writing. Plus, I looked up her picture in the google machine. Scary-looking old broad. That's what I meant by "what planet does she live on." Probably should've spent Saturday afternoon polishing my hubcap collection instead.

SJ said...

Some other mentions of gossip in the book of Proverbs:

"A gossip betrays confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret." (Prov. 11:13)

"A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. (Prov. 16:28)

"A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much." (Prov. 20:19)

"Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down." (Prov. 26:20)

"The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts." (Prov. 18:8 and Prov. 26:22...odd, this shows up twice.)

Nota Bene, some English translations use "tale-bearer" where others use "gossip"

Gossip is very human. It is also not always an innocent thing.

Gossip can keep old quarrels alive, reveal secrets, spoil friendships...and make the recipient feel like they've gotten a dainty morsel of a story.

Bill said...

I much prefer her take on gossip to, say, Thoreau's.

rcommal said...

Gossip starts from the ground up: That is its essence, and always has its essence been.

mikee said...

The novel as a form of social and ethical transgression is an aged device, going back at least 1532 with Gargantua and Pantagruel, a delightfully naughty good read full of gossip, even today.

Glad to see that the current authors still know that. I get tired of being force fed supposedly transgressional reading whose content is lefty PC crap pretending to be new and daring.

Hey, the new Puppies campaign against PC in the Hugos is starting up, by the way! Now THAT is transgression against an establishment!