Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Way of All Flash

Back in the day, which is to say the nineteenth and mid years of the twentieth centuries, reading a book meant going on a journey of some considerable reach, either to a place in history, momentous events, or on some near-unthinkable quest.  The individuals portrayed had some significant purpose, getting away from a place, venturing to a place, protecting a place and its inhabitants.  Nevertheless, these worthies were your guides, indicating potential interests to you, perhaps even sharing a meal or two with you.  After a few pages, you felt you were along not any longer a mere tourist but, somehow, a participant.  You felt the potential for menace in the feud, for instance, between the Grangefords and Shepperdsons; you knew the issues in the Robert Louis Stevenson adventures; you were unwittingly allied with the Saxons in Ivanhoe; you knew for whom your sympathy was meant in Anne of Green Gables.  When you experienced the depth and presence of Daniel Deronda, you wondered would you ever have the necessary reach much less the presumption to call yourself a novelist.

Reading then was a journey of discovery that emphasized for you the importance of imagination, learning, travel, and the understanding of the effects on the human experience caused by the emotions provided every human at birth.

Today, reading a book puts you more in mind of a visit to a therapist or career coach or other type individual who affects modern clothing and attitudes while behaving in secret as though a shaman from some remote civilization. The reason behind this state of mind is your awareness that many individuals who write books today are writing them for goals that have less to do with writing and more to do with venting or redressing some grievance or making money as a form of cashing in on some former relationship of some particular knowledge.  You have nothing against venters or redressers or entrepreneurs, and you even bear certain admiration for some of the many whistle blowers in our midst who are out to undercut some particular double standard undermining the social contract we either sign onto or find a way to lead the hermetic life somewhere on our own.

Your vision of many documents sold as books holds that there is little essential difference between two such outrageous conflations of strategy as the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the platform of the Republican Party.  Both appear to you as refraction, which is to say distortions of true imagery, each of which contains propositions and conclusions that lack foundation when observed in the light of logic; each of which argue for a more rigorous teaching of the applications of logic.

True enough, you are not always the most logical of thinkers or functionaries, led as you are to follow pathways not as well marked as they might be, guided not by clarity of thought as they might be.  Your one salient hope is that you will hear and be guided by the insistent urge to write something memorable and the ancillary wish not to trip over the potential pomposity resident in such hope.  There are booby traps everywhere about you, waiting to pounce each time you bring a sentence into being.

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