To say that we are innately creatures of conscience is the same as saying that, as Tom Waits sings in “Misery Is the River of the World,” “there’s one thing you can say about mankind, there’s nothing kind about man.” In short, both claims are no better than a prejudice. (If told this, Hitchens would get in a huff and move into debating posture, not unlike the “crane” stance in "The Karate Kid," while Waits would grin that sly, slightly inebriated grin of his and say, “Yeah....”) As Wallace Stevens wrote about truth claims of this variety, “The world is ugly, /And the people are sad. /... / Have it your way.” (“Gubbinal”) For Stevens, the good and bad of things was not to be determined by religion, or science, or reason, or by a hispid Marxist-cum-neo-con like Hitchens, but by poetry, which at least has the honesty to acknowledge it is making it all up. Making it all up and yet offering itself with the assumption that if others like its peculiar brand of the good and beautiful they’ll follow and leave behind the self-interested culture of virtuous violence they were born in.
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Modern-day Odysseus; Simon Schama’s Jewish magical realism; problems with the American diet; Kafka’s world out of kilter; Andrew Motion on one of the great taste-makers of the twentieth century; George Bernard Shaw’s connection to the Balfour Declaration – and much more
The media has remained mostly silent as the centenary of the Bolshevik revolution has come and now gone. After all, the media does not want to appear too ...
James E. Taylor
Email: [email protected]
U. S. A.