Monday, June 27, 2005

I'm packing up books to sell, and I'm still finding things. My own pile of boxes is up to at least ten. Today I was in the basement, with the shelves for American literature, politics, and modern theater. I grabbed 5 issues of Partisan Review from 1950-51, some early printings of British plays known and unknown to me from the 50's and 60's, "The Report of the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace" held in NY in 1949, and some pamphlets of the Weathermen and the Resistance. I also grabbed an old Modern Library Giant of Hawthorne and some things by Eric Bentley. Upstairs earlier I grabbed old editions, from a set, of Marlowe, Webster, and Dryden. Nothing is valuable. My parents were readers in the true sense of the word and I'm not, but there are still things I want. There's an element of nostalgia but less than I had feared. I'm letting a lot of stuff go.

An older post about family history and politics.

In the meantime:
What intellectuals lack in this country is a respect for craft. My parents were part of the history of this transformation. They dedicated their lives to the analysis of the meanings of craft, but were terrified of succumbing to its charms. Later generations are worse off. I'm speaking of course only of intellectuals, or of artists who pretend to have a prescient–predictive–awareness. Again I return to the difference between lawyers and philosophers of law. Lawyers are actors and actors of every other sort are the most anti-intellectual of artists, but I'm finding them less and less annoying as I grow older. My father wrote his dissertation on Nathaniel West and I joke that I want to be happy in the absurdity of Hollywood. Life is only tragic if you take it seriously

What things have we seen
Done at the Mermaid! heard words that have been
So nimble, and so full of subtle flame,
As if that every one from whence they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
And resolved to live a fool the rest
of his dull life.

Is it possible to be political, to be engagé and to think the whole thing, politics included, is a joke?
I can't imagine it any other way.

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