How Hamlet’s Advice to the Players is Sound Advice to You and Me

. . . a fictional editor of a fictional review writes an “About Us” entry in the review he publishes with the help of no one, himself being the whole of the staff, everything is written by him . . .


[He asks a friend to read the text of his proposed “About Us” section for the literary review  he publishes alone and with the help of no one–he hesitates to say that he wears many hats, only another allusion to the whole of the world being a stage, and every operation in this world having itself a stage to perform on, although some reference to movie making must be inserted here because it is only in a film where one actor can play all the characters, crate all the different roles in the final film. But who will be doing the filming itself–there would have to be cameraman, no? He could direct the film himself, and in the maters of this review, our Publishing Editor can perform all of the other roles that go into producing the final product because there needs to be no simultaneity in the performance of these separate roles. The friend agrees to read the text. Our Editor/Author/Publisher waits his verdict.]

The Text

Let no one ask who I am. Who I am is not as important as what I am. What I am is the Publishing Editor of The Review, and as Publishing Editor, I am not who but what. This what is more important than other whats as well. What I am, man or woman? What I am, young or old or middle aged? What I am, Catholic, Muslim or Jewish? What I am, white or black or other? What I am, Italian-American or Hispanic-American? None of these supplant the role of Publishing Editor. This is first and last in this endeavor here. Let the About Us begin . . . our ethics here at The Review do not pander to an arithmetic appraisal of what we believe we must still call literary quality; nor do we defer to the dictates of bottom-line appraisals in America’s ledger book of success that you know most publishing adheres to without question, as if their reflexes from and for this are good because we have assumed that to whatever degree habit mimics nature we should thus conclude the action is natural and in turn of circle good beyond query; nor do we supplant good sense and learned sense with statistics compiled in studies better suited for straw cats. There is, if you have not already concluded thus, a hierarchy of achievement to maintain in all literary endeavors. What anyone could be thinking who is attempting to publish and promote something like a literary review on line is a question we have tried to answer. A literary journal, that is, a critical journal–if that is what this could be called because most of the critique is presented in the form of fiction (I hesitated to say in the guise of fiction). What this means for the act of critiquing we are in the process of determining, concluding, articulating. As I have said before in other posts, as parts of other essays, any valid effective critique demands a level of literacy that seems opposed to what is often found on line–our review then critiques the act of reviewing as is most often found on-line–if anyone could say it is found at all. What does any of this mean to you the reader would depend on what kind of reader you are? If you are one of the many, many usual superficial skimmers of pages or screens, then this is a whole lot of gibberish . . . and I cannot let you know here just how many of our college educated I number among those who cannot perform the appropriate penetration of a text, not without insulting a great many of you who would, through some unconscious reflex, or impulse, think that I was talking about you, condescending to you.

There are plenty of questions to ask ourselves about what we mean by literary essays, literature, the short story, the essay form in itself, flash fiction.  There are other questions as well that would be best suited to different angles of perception, that is, distinct perspectives on literature and the literary, when the latter is used as a categorizing adjective–what are the differences herein assumed for what we call the literary, that is, literary achievement, literary reviewing, literary essays, literary epistemology? Literacy and literature are themselves subject to perpetual questioning,. questions of genre, questions of quality, just to name two of the more mundane, someone could say, but even that becomes a question. One question seems appropriate but may not be as important as others might presume it is, and that is this: 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 as we mean when we say literary, one dedicated to providing social commentary and critique at a level that does not pander to baser tastes or lower levels of literacy, a population of educated people taught to do no more than be alphabetic when they say they can read?

I do not have to hope that it is true that we are dedicated–again, I am dedicated enough to persist, to persevere, to endure the slings and arrows of outrageously lowered standards of literacy and literary achievement, but I am not very optimistic that others will be the same. Can anyone be only 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; they have a quite distinct understanding of what constitutes literacy, and in this here America, as elsewhere in the world, alphabetics has supplanted literacy, even among the educated elite, which is a big reason civilization seems to be slipping. How we define literary must still be different than the contemporary notion the tradition has allowed, and I might not object to this in the ad hoc way many might assume. The attempts to keep the review fresh will, though, not always differ from traditional notions of a literary review. In as much as how writing and particularly more so, how traditional ideas about literature have come under critical attack in our culture, I ask myself if I have lost optimism, and the answer wavers. I have confidence in my abilities to pull off the publishing of this review. I hope you enjoy it and find it as rewarding reading it as we have publishing it. More than this I do not presume. What you read here is what you get; what you have gotten might be something else; the context could be all, the review’s the thing to capture the conscience of the reader who imagines himself king of his reading. I will dedicate myself to suiting word to action and action to word.

[The friend finished the text and provided a few criticisms that our author listened to but did not initially or even later agree with, but of course did not dispute, simply listened and smiled and seemingly accepted, but friend or not friend–it did not seem valid enough, any one of the criticisms, for him to take seriously, except out of courtesy even more than out of friendship because he has begun to question how he could be friends with someone who has exposed himself as being as stupid as he is, or so our author has concluded because he cannot get to a place in his mind or his interpersonal relationships where all opinions are valid because they have been expressed, and where who’s to say remains everyone’s mantra because in a world where no one has the authority to say in lieu of others who do not, then anyone can say anything and this anybody really nobody can be a genius for fifteen minutes or fifteen seconds. What the friend said is of no never mind  now, and your need of this is not necessary here, and is not a factor in our editor/publisher’s conclusions. He does not need your opinion either. He has not solicited it, and will not ever. Doubt is not the highest wisdom in his epistemology, no. It never will be. We are to begin with Socrates’s I know nothing as an inquiry into what we know, what we can know, what the limits of knowing are. Our contemporaneity has succumbed to this maxim as its conclusion, as its destination, as its final say in the matters of knowledge and wisdom.]


The End


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