Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Reading, 2017

I think of this ornament of the col-
lections of the Musée de l'Orangerie
as the very image of free choice in
what to consume. I think of how of-
ten we've awakened to a day of free
time, say, and scanned our shelves
for that one volume that anticipates
us, from many we'd have named with-
out even looking. Hundreds and hun-
dreds of times, through the years,
I've stood as any reader in posses-
sion of his senses, to allow them to
be led, challenged, succoured, even
revealed, in the biting in to their
seeming ripeness, by literature's
opportune incisors. Shelved thoughts
anyone's taken on, as if allowing
the choice to be theirs, having en-
joyed the prerogative of their se-
lection. One asks, as we say these
days, call me by your name. An ex-
change of self-possession is not

So much, for customs in common.

Now, for the first time, since
the great Depression of the 1930s,
Americans have been staggered by in-
formation of the most voluminous in-
tensity and calculated artificial-
ity, not to assuage bad times but to 
foment them. This we lack the irres-
ponsibility to ignore. Now a whole
government has promulgated such per-
petual emergency and disorientation,
as to rival the blistering effects
of the Dust Bowl. Against this ex-
otic environment, we've stood be-
fore our bookshelves to specify
something none of us had needed -
defenses, shaped to the affront.

Now, this is not the rôle of liter-
ature, but of prostitutes. How ex-
traordinarily the brusque velocity
of this abduction has driven any
reader off his bearings, is only the
measure of a pimp's triumph. We un-
derstand, much as we do not begrudge
the Third Reich in Germany its manip-
ulative genius, it is time to honor
that of the new American government.

Not as our author of the year. But as
the last year, the reading of a free
people had been so interrupted. Most
of us saw many fewer of the books en-
titled to our elective exploration,
than we might ever have done outside
of active military duty. And they are
the real literature of the resistance.
Apples, biscuits, glowing choice.

Paul Cézanne
Apples and biscuits
ca 1880

Franz Kline

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