“Lifting a rock only to drop it on one's own feet” is a Chinese folk saying to describe the behavior of certain fools. The reactionaries in all countries are fools of this kind. In the final analysis, their persecution of the revolutionary people only serves to accelerate the people’s revolutions on a broader and more intense scale.
As one of “the most sordid rascals,” what is it that I really want? To hasten literature back to the day when only middle-aged white dudes were worth anything? For a Jew, that would be self-defeating, since it would mean turning the clock back to before Moses, who was a Jew before the Jews had become white. It would also mean that I would have to abandon several of my public enthusiasms.
As Richard M. Weaver once said, however, turning it back is one of the things you can do to a clock. Although I have no confidence that it can ever be restored, I mourn the lost age when her race, class, gender, and sexual orientation were not all you really needed to know about an author. I miss talking about books in terms of something other than their meaning. I would kind of like to go back to discussing authors as if they had intentions, just like their critics, which could not be happily dismissed in an effort to squeeze a more ingenious message out of them. I wish critics still had a conscience.
I am nostalgic for writers who understand that political novels must do something in addition to sneering at Bush. In fact, I wish there were a few writers (or a president, for that matter) who understood that bashing Bush, at this late date, is neither clever nor appealing. I am lonely for writers and intellectuals who actually wish to address those who disagree with them rather than assuming that only the like-minded need read them. I want to know where the writers are like the British novelist Elizabeth Taylor, who was a lifelong woman of the Left and perhaps even a Communist, although you would never know it from her novels.
I want to return to a time when writers were judged by their style, their success in bringing artistic coherence out of actuality’s confusion, their distinctiveness and distinction, even their interpretation of the human experience. But to want such a thing, I guess, is to be a “densely stupid reactionary.”
And so I must be. My critical pursuits must only serve to accelerate the descent into revolutionary illiteracy. My bad.