GREATNESS and IMPORTANCE
|March 8, 2012|
The Poor Poet, Carl Spitzweg, 1839
Since when did being a writer become a career choice, with appropriate degree courses and pecking orders? Does this state of affairs make any difference to what gets written?
A natural selection process favors those writers whose style and content cross borders easily. Success and celebrity breed imitators. Lots of them. Nobody can read everything. Nobody can read the hundredth part of everything. Nevertheless international prizes purport to tell us which is the best novel of the year, who the greatest writer.
The ultimate achievement of the career writer, after a lifetime of literary festivals, shortlists and prizes, readings, seminars, honorary degrees, lectures, and, of course, writing is, or would be, to place himself inside “the canon.” But in the publishing culture we have today any idea that a process of slow sifting might produce a credible canon such as those we inherited from the distant past is nonsense. Whatever in the future masquerades as a canon for our own time will largely be the result of good marketing, self-promotion, and of course pure chance.
Is all this bad news? Only if one is attached to dreams of greatness. In a droll lecture entitled “Ten Thousand Poets” delivered at the annual conference of The Association of Literary Scholars and Critics at Boston University last October, the excellent poet Mark Halliday reflected:
“I think all of us who keep striving and striving to publish another and another book of poems are still in love with the ideas of GREATNESS and IMPORTANCE.”
As Halliday concluded such ideas were simply not compatible with the era of the career writer.
Not long ago, my husband was working on a plaster sculpture, and when he removed his rubber gloves, he saw that his gold ring had disappeared. I came to pick my husband up at his studio and discovered him pale, bleary-eyed, babbling. I found the ring, camouflaged on a patch of beige carpet, and my husband cried with relief.
Teleology Rises from the Grave
Stephen T. Asma
It turns out that there are a few different teleology traditions, but the Anglo-American conversation has been blithely unaware of all but the simplest. The simple and loud version is the “natural theology” tradition, which claims that adaptation in nature must be the result of a supreme Designer because chance alone cannot account for gills in water, lungs on land, complex eyes and cell flagella.
The Death of Romance in the Shadow of the Colossus
These are the two modalities through which you engage the world of Shadow of the Colossus: In the journey, you are the lost soul; in the encounter, you become the lover and the warrior, carried by your passions into mortal struggles with the Colossi. These guardian monsters, your adversaries, fill in the emotional frame established by your travels through the Forbidden Land.
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We two were sitting together on the wintry Campagna grass; the rest of the party, with their proud, tiresome horses, had disappeared beyond the pale green undulations; their carriage had stayed at that castellated bridge of the Anio. The great moist Roman sky, with its song of invisible larks, arched all round; above the rejuvenated turf rustled last year’s silvery hemlocks. The world seemed very large, significant, and delightful; and we had it all to ourselves, as we sat there side by side, my bicycle and I.
We are likely to hear a lot more of this woman. Some October, perhaps, from the Nobel Prize committee. She certainly has the stature. Translated into many languages, the winner of multiple major awards, not only is she Russia’s leading dramatist by wide agreement, she is also its leading author of fiction, the mother of contemporary women’s writing in the country.