Casting Words, Casting Stones

A literary web journal dedicated to the literary essay . . . dedicated to the proposition that all of humanity is created equal . . . that our differences do not outweigh our similarities or our sameness, even if they do out number them. What can any of this mean? I imagine there are some who ask. Asking a question in this culture often means something else other than looking for an answer. We have become too practiced in the art of diverting answers with questions, with avoiding having to learn by perpetually asking them. What am I trying to say? I will not wonder if some might ask. That would be too condescending. How is this proposition managed in this world, one where all people are equal. Am I crazy? I am not going to pretend that there is an editorial staff other than me. I am The Falling Leaf Review.

Created equal–something we say, we assume, but often could not defend or articulate how. Yes, equal but how, but when, but where . . . but, but, but. Under what scrutiny could any equality be sustained, maintained, perpetuated? There will always remain skills some can perform better than others; there are always inequalities that glare at us. Some of them are correctible–as we like to say when the inequalities are not matters of nature which is why racism and sexism and other subtracting isms persist: there are always those who will try to naturalize inequalities that are anything but natural, that is, facts of nature.

Our ethics here at The Falling Leaf Review do not pander to arithmetic or the ledger book or statistics compiled in studies better suited for straw cats, but there is a hierarchy of achievement, of ability, no? Of course there is. And again, I am we here. But what could anyone be thinking who is attempting to publish and promote something like a literary review on line? A literary journal, a critical journal, as I have said before in other posts, as part of other essays demands a level of literacy that seems opposed to what is often found on line. What does any of this mean? There are even more questions, others suited to different angles of perception, perspectives–what are the differences herein assumed? Is there a market for the kind of reading demanded by the level of writing sustained by any review that assumes the role of a literary review, one dedicated to providing social commentary and critique? I hope so, but I am not very optimistic. Can you be a little optimistic. Is optimism really scaling? I know that this contemporaneity has a different idea of what constitutes a literary review than I have. How we define literary must be different, although not always, and not precisely as some might assume, this failing of ours to maintain a higher level of general literacy, something I believe is possible. In as much as how writing and particularly more traditional ideas about literature have come under critical attack in our culture do I lose optimism.

Now, the internet often does not lend itself to the kind of writing and reading the literary essay form demands, and that’s whether we defer to our contemporaneity on what is literary or we defer to mine. I am not really as sure that mine differs so greatly from those that are current. I would be deluded, though, if I said yes to the question above about the internet being or not being a medium of higher intellectual exchange or election . . .

When my family made it to my maternal grandfather’s farm in Pittsfield (where Melville had written one-third of Moby Dick), after his funeral, I saw just four books on his shelf, two were the bible, one in French, the other in English, and a copy of complete Shakespeare, a large serious looking volume I think I recall having once remembered of it, and a rather large volume of Montaigne, but I do not recollect if it were in French or in English or whether it was bi-lingual, as had become more available in the second half of the twentieth century. Yes, the Bible, Shakespeare and Montaigne; they were it for my grandfather. Anyone literate–that is, anyone with pretensions to being literate or considered literate–only needed to have read the Bible, Shakespeare and Montaigne. That was my mother’s father’s Canon. Mine of course had become broader, but I understand the thinking involved in what my grandfather had left in wordless sign.

We have, though, in this America of ours, been so systematically undereducated–and we really have been under ediucated–that we have been left at the mercy of our passions, fires and motions from within that have been malnourished by how we read or dis-read. As semi-literate as most of us are who have been what we call educated, we have little idea what it means to be literate, truly literate, which does point to the possibility that someone can be falsely literate, that is, a man who masquerades as someone literate.

We have lost our focus. We have lost sight of the target. We are completely of target. I do still hope against hope that this could change, that at some time in the future there would rise a generation who decides to throw off the shackles of complacency, and not-enough-as-good-enough, to raise the levels of literacy unilaterally and universally. Then we might see something spectacular in the democratic process and manifest a true democracy instead of the one the monied and power elite hold before us with the help of the media who are fully aligned with money and power elites. Carrots and mules, no?

Is there a market in America for the literary essay? I doubt it; that is, I suspect that reading is not performed very often at the level necessary to engage what we call the literary essay. The doubt that pervades our thinking in general–and our thinking about what reading and writing are, especially in the ways we separate them as if they were not mutual and reciprocal endeavors–has left us intellectually and cognitively weakened. These mental weaknesses are as debilitating as one or another form of muscular atrophy are to the body. Ours is a crisis in epistemology, where we are left to believe that knowledge is impossible. Where knowledge is impossible, the man or woman who knows something is held in suspicion; he quickly becomes excommunicate in whatever group, institution, level of society he operates. Let you who is without knowledge cast the first stone.

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