Backstory as context stays in the here and now, and so keeps faith with modernism. Backstory as nervous anticipation of future criticism is a retrospective literary mode, and as such recalls Benjamin’s angel, who is always looking backward as he moves into the future. The eyes know too much.
My own work is not retrospective. It faces the blank wall of the future, which is kind of a misty, intangible wall out of which things emerge all in parts, not complete, not yet integrated. Is that mystification? No way. My approach is entirely materialist and objective, exactly like Frank Stella’s “what it is is what it is” (paraphrase) only without the planning, meaning without straightedges and tape measures.
Dedicated to my old friend Jerry Zaslove, scholar of memory, student of Walter Benjamin, reader of Klee’s angels.