Let me begin the New Year by welcoming all the new readers of this blog who have signed up in recent months. I was going to publish my piece ‘Is Myth Only Fantasy?’ this week but then something interesting came up and I decided to wait until next time for that. What came up was some very interesting writing in the New York Times Book Review (Jan 2 issue) about the state of literary criticism. Like so many others I had begun to speculate that criticism, and even the need for it, was dead. The cluster of essays in the Review has renewed my hope.
Like you, fellow reader, I had begun to suspect that to set standards of value in literature has become a thing of the past in this post-standard world. That (with a nod to the great critic Alfred Kazin) literature is no longer in the position to change the outcome of the future. That the future is now in other hands. That, in fact, the whole thing has collapsed from the inside. That the writer of literature no longer knows what the reader wants. That the reader doesn't know what the writer is saying. And that the critic who tries to make sense of it all simply cannot.
But then there it was in the midst of all the other words and sentences like a shining beacon home: seek truth and beauty in your work, no matter what! Be ye writer, reader, or critic, do not settle for less. And that is precisely what I am seeking here. In writing here from my own work in progress – what I am reading, writing, thinking at the time of creation – a new work emerges, which the reader might find important in its own right. It is interesting, I think, that I am able to use the internet to connect up directly with my readers. The internet has become a kind of great leveler, for good or bad. By way of this connection we can write anything, tell my story as it were. But what we may not do (and yet so many have), is to become sloppy in our work. Sloppiness is neither truthful nor beautiful. This blog, then, acts as a kind of ‘Author’s Notes’ as I try to make sense of it all, but from another perspective: from the very center of the creative eye.
The marketer in me is now tempted to shout ‘if you have friends who read, invite them to join in.’ But perhaps we should be more selective than that. Perhaps we should say ‘if you know someone who is seeking truth and beauty in literature, we would be happy to have them join us.’
Or, will we suppose that the future will be increasingly image-driven: film, television, photo, graphic art?
Or will words continue to pull from that deep place within us all that distorts images. The place that shadows and lengthens and deepens the truth we may yet encounter and choose to live by? Only in this way will words continue in importance – a great responsibility and great opportunity for all writers, readers, and critics.
Seek truth this New Year. Seek beauty. Jim