Saturday, January 3, 2009

I Still Love the Modernists

I've been out of the crosshairs of the literary canon for quite a good long time. During my most recent enmeshment, the writers I "specialized in" during graduate school - The Modernists -  had fallen out of favor. Their deadwhitemale corpses were the cannibal feasts of fierce young Xinists and Xicists who, ironically, had adopted one of the great Modernist mottoes:

Make It New

Everyone was chasing after some new writer and some new angle to (dare I say) fetishize, and being Dead and White and Male pretty much meant a writer was Going To Pay. 

Given, the new writers were mostly wonderful; granted, the old writers (they weren't all men though they were all dead and they pretty much were all white) were not always on the fashionable side of the political fence. They drank, smoke, and screwed with abandon. Some were not very nice to each other or anyone else.

But they wrote with the angels. 

The angels.

I could go off on a rant here about how anyone who still thinks Hemingway is a misogynist needs to go on a very long retreat with a copy of The Sun Also Rises and anyone who thinks Faulkner is a racist should do the same with The Sound and The Fury, but I'll spare you.

Instead, I just want to tease you with a tiny bit of light. This isn't the happiest poem, but glory how it sings.

Take it away, Mr. Eliot.....

1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
(T.S. Eliot 1888-1965)

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats 
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question … 
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

If you would like to read on, click here.

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