It starts to seem endless around the end of August — day after day of 100 degree heat.
I rarely mention fan letters but Mary O’Donovan of Vancouver B.C. sent me a little booklet by Robert McFarlane along with a nice letter. It’s a great little piece of writing. Here’s the first page and a half, where he mentions teaching in Beijing;
Our students were mostly the sons and daughters of high-cadre officials; if you mentioned Tibet or Taiwan, thirty faces dipped to their desks. We taught our syllabus from a fat crimson-jacketed anthology of English literature that reframed literary history, Chinese Communist party style — and its function was the advancement of the Maoist project. Wordsworth the revolutionary was included, but not Wordsworth the late-life conservative. Oscar Wilde starred as socialist but not as aesthete. Ezra Pound didn’t make the cut for obvious reasons… Teaching with the Big Red Book as we came to call it was hard work. It was easy to forget that literature might be there to thrill, perplex or amaze, rather than to instruct.
Which is a point I make endlessly. Captain Kidd made the point that people need to move into the realm of the imagination. So this small booklet was very moving and I am going to order more of this books as well as some of the books to which he referred. A studious propriety has taken over much of out literature. Especially that taught in literature courses. The writer is never supposed to miss an opportunity to scold, reprove, lecture and point out. I am especially weary of the reviewer’s phrase, “forcing the reader to confront…” A novel can’t make anybody confront anything. You can put it down, throw it away, delete it, or, if it is a physical book, jump up and down on it.
When you fall into works of the imagination you go on a journey and you come away refreshed. It is worth your life to get away from admonition, life-lessons, censoriousness, sweet instructions, Mary Sues and the breathless urgings of soft porn.
thank you Mary O’Donovan.
June, April and Evelyn went to Jasper without me. A wonderful riding ranch near Lake Buchanan in East Texas with tall pine trees and great riding trails, smooth and sandy. I couldn’t go because I had to go for eye evaluation. I have cataract surgery coming up.
Here they are, living it up!