I've been perplexed by the problem of how to write a review, the kind of review I want to write, the kind of review I would like to read. I have something in mind, but I don't know what it is. I launch an effort to write about a piece of fiction and come to a dead end before I've filled a page. There are reviews I greatly admire--but at the same time, I hear myself say as I read them--this is very good, but it isn't it. This isn't what I'm looking for. Clavdia Chauchat's recent post on Letters from a Librarian, Notes on Valéry's Aesthetics, touches on a matter central to my problem: the difficulty of articulating an aesthetics of process--the difficulty of writing about those slippery choices that go into the making of any work of art, choices that have been erased by other choices, and which are themselves erased in turn, until the making comes to an apparent conclusion and nothing remains of the making itself. And yet, I'm convinced, that the very thing that engages us is what we don't see or hear, and yet calls us back into that invisible process when we confront the work.
I wonder if that part of the response to a work of art that takes place below or outside the threshold of reason isn't made of something like a reversal of the process of the making, that that shimmering illusion of inevitability sets off a chain of endless, alternatives, driven by a need to restore to the work its lost possibilities, restoring the potentiality which the completed work appears to deny.
A critical response that addressed process would ask, why this word and not another? Why this scene described from one point of view and not a another, or another, or another? The completed work confronts the viewer or reader as though from a state of high entropy which is anything but a state of rest-- as far from finality as the universe was as a singularity before the Big Bang. An aesthetics of process would explode the Platonic singularity into an infinite universe of expanding elements, all traceable back to their origin... the work itself, beyond which we cannot penetrate.