Sunday, September 08, 2013

Great expectations

There once was, I solemnly believe, a moment when literary culture, serious literary discussion, was self-confident, confident in some sense of better things to come, or, more accurately, of the possibility of better things, of a real civilization. Or even, at bleakest, there at least was a belief in serious literary discussion, civilizational-ethical conversation, bone to bone, within a living awareness of a very liberal, very robust tradition. I have located this moment, half-seriously, to a point near mid-20th century in an obscurish essay by Edmund Wilson. But actually these were the last years about which one could even claim something like this. A brief moment, and now so much ground is being lost and serious literature is becoming an odd minority interest, and pretty much not even attempted any more. Yes, there are good writers and good books, but no wide scopes, no cultural self-confidence any longer. By and large we are rehearsing comedies and tragedies of manners with no attempts to George Eliotian or Conradian reach. No passages to India these days.

This nostalgia certainly is partly that: grumpy complaints about the times and mores that has always been going on. But I think in this particular matter, something has qualitatively changed, ground has shifted and new landscapes, bleak landscapes are opening before this generation's eyes.

Cock and balls

I wonder at our innate, automatic tendency to idealize, to make palatable. It is such a strong urge: anything to tame the immediate experience which is not reducible to banalities or even the most intricate subtleties - nor as it concerns the subject of this post, to pornographic coarseness either. But what does cut through these things, these protections, is the immediate experience. And even when saying this, writing this, one realizes that it is not it all, not what one meant at all. One always is where one never, exactly, was - and, nevertheless, the memory is not false, or the experience once wasn't, not completely. And so I do remember, and remember essentially correctly, some sweet past things, and don't know if those will ever return, if one will ever return to that purest of possible states. And yes, it is true: sex is not all and not every trembling hand will return me there.