The essays I have written. What is there left to say about them–or what is there at all to say about them that they do not say for themselves? There is never much in the way of prefacing or wording afterwards that can say more than there is to say about an essay, a play, a novel, let’s say, that the works themselves do not say. I remember Bill Packard in his play-wrighting workshops insisting that extended or extensive stage directions are unnecessary of the play is sound, is strong, if the characters have wants that are vividly portrayed on stage. You had to understand that whatever yoou felt you needed to describe in stage directions–if it were not necessary, take them out because what was superfluous to the action in the play was not needed and only served to distract or interrupt the reading if that was what was to be done with the play. Most actos ignore them, so if they are necessary to understanding the play, then the playwright needed to find a way to get what was in the directions into the play. The plays with the absolutely thinnest stage directions are Shakespeare’s, I do say this as if a whole 19th century American western town is supposed to freeze.
For as long as I can recollect having written essays, I have never felt the need to expalin them, and have often referred readers back to the essay. If the the clarity of meaning was actually the problem, if it were a problem of execution, then explication from me would less effective than revising or rewriting the essay. I have said that the job of criticism is not to explain a text. Let that serve as sufficient here because it is not my intention to say what the job of criticism is–fragmentation staved by criticism. Essays cannot be starved or killed by criticism if they are bountiful and performed adequately.
The duration of time involved is quite long already, myself a writer, how long I could say, but will not. It is not necessary for you to know, it will not help you in any way that could be called relevant. It is nearly the fourth decade of writing–does that help you more than if I were to say it has been foour months that I have been writing? At least help you gage what?
I have performed my tasks as a writer as if I were in solitary confinement. But then this is an imagined context I believe to be a valid one to perceive for the writer; in fact, everyone everywhere is in a kind of solitary inside their skin–we wear our skins like lunatics wear straight jackets, some of us do.
Tennessee Williams said as much–inferred as much in his Orpheus Descending. I am currently reading the latest biography of him. Condemned to solitary confinement in our skins. In many of the essays–certainly not all of them–I have written for as long as I have been writing literary essays, personal essays, social and political commentary, I have maintained a simple intension, and that is to examine our social interactions and the forums for those interactions. In this kind of social commentary, I have provided critique of these social interactions and their forums, how we speak to one another, especially when another person is one kind of other we figure cannot be another, inclusive or like, how this other must be different, mutually exclusive from whatever we find ourselves inclusive.
We do divide and subdivide ourselves, unable to reach any understanding of universality let alone manifest an attitude of universality, socially. I have no objections to the best intentions of what we call diversity, except where it is misunderstood and stands for another way of providing The People with one diversion after another away from themselves as The People, and instead provide one or another received idea about themselves that guides them to replacing their People-ness with being one or another from of Publican–the People and the Public are mutually exclusive in politically interactive social contexts.
Diversity, if not managed appropriately and carefully, can be diverse as in diversion or divergent. This can happen in a society by design or arise simply in effect. There is a compelling logic carried to its conclusion by the premise: This is a Literary Review. The nature of reviewing is to look again, to look at and to look for become mutual and reciprocal in the art of reviewing–and yes, art, not soley act. It is assumed that by reviewing what is achieved is some kind of seeing again the world of politics, the world of interpersonal relationships, the world of commerce and economics, the world of citizenship as citizenship is a role larger than just political participation, but might just be all of political participation.
Seeing, we know from our own cultural habits of speech and contacts with other cultural habits of speech, is to understanding; yes, to see is to understand when to understand is to stand under, to hold, to fell, to carry. I do understand–and please allow me this gross assumption as to the matter and manners of speaking, themselves figures of speech–what does speeech actually figure, what shape or shapes does it take in our minds, our mouths, our social interactions?
I understand how some may not understand this specifically drawn sense of understanding I am talking about or around herein–how understanding, as I have said before elsewhere, is quite literally to stand under–to hold up, to bear the weight, to carry and thus feell the pressure of . . . one must harness one’s inner Atlas. How is it that we have missed the point that Atlas is an exemplary model for woman?
But the purpose herein is explicit. We must become post to every lintel of knowledge, experience, communication. Ours is both the best of cultures and the worst of cultures, as any culture stands as its most enduring enemy, as anyone understands that he or she is his or her own worst enemy as well as a potential best friend. Social critique and social commentary are staples in any review that purports to be serious in its endeavors concerning freedom or living in a democracy–a society that actualizes democratic living, being and thinking–of course, speaking. Do we have this in our current America? Not as we would like to think, to believe.
Reviewing in the ways mandated by participation in a democracy, in a society purported as the freest society on earth, a leader in the ways of liberty and equality–I am not so sure that that’s what we are living today, not with a media as controlled by particular ideologies as it is, not with a media more concerned with delivering received ideas, dogmas and propaganda more than being committed to the Truth, the latter something it has entirely abandoned and does not even believe is valid, has valency, possesses veracity.
How we must be critical in the traditions of western intellectual critique, that is if this review is to maintain validity or relevance, is paramount. To offer any commentary without a critical edge sharp enough to cut is a disgrace to the memory of the traditions of reviewing, of any critical journal at any time in any place, any country, any culture, any political environment, any language. All of the former, human.
All social interactions are fair game (pardon the cliche) within the confines of the critical essays intended for social commentary. Responses herein to the questions that arise, or the questions I have anticipated some might ask, are not in themselves answers. The distinction between answering and responding ad which is enaged when and how and to what result or for what purpose is the subject of another essay herein included in its Pages section, the chief section of this review, not the blog, although the later has as much to do with critique, often in other forms, mostly, another length (but where length dictates form and style, this is significant).
The Falling Leaf Review has offered, does offer and will offer criticism, explication, commentary, exposition, even Jeremiads, which do not chiefly answer as much as they address, perhaps by redressing grievances or making pronouncements, perhaps grandiloquent ones, on social woes. I do acknowledge that as the Publishing Editor of this review, I cannot help but shape what this review will sound like, or what it will appear as, when readers access its texts. I am the chief writer–I am the only writer–everything herein is I. The Review, c’est moi, I think have already said.
Jeremiah’s Lamentations on the woe and misery and decadence of third century BC Jerusalem is never too far from our social and political critiques; the energy behind Jeremiah’s pronouncements while lamenting the political and the socio-economic conditions of the Jewish people in Jerusalem is informative of our commitment. What more do you want me to say–perhaps an anecdote, one that purports access to my mind, my thoughts, the kind of person I was am have been will be . . . when I was a boy, my favorite prophet was The Baptist; I later included Jeremiah among my personal collection of spiritual kins, the likes of Shelley, Byron and Blake were also granyted access to my inner circle. I am not saying that thses are the only poets included in my inner circle of spiritual kin, but an appreciation of their critical positions was paramount in my development as a writer of critical essays.