The broken estate : essays on literature and belief

The application of this to the radio is obvious. At present theloudspeaker is the enemy of the creative writer, but this may notnecessarily remain true when the volume and scope of broadcastingincrease. As things are, although the BBC does keep up a feebleshow of interest in contemporary literature, it is harder tocapture five minutes on the air in which to broadcast a poem thantwelve hours in which to disseminate lying propaganda, tinnedmusic, stale jokes, faked "discussions" or what-have-you. But thatstate of affairs may alter in the way I have indicated, and whenthat time comes serious experiment in the broadcasting of verse,with complete disregard for the various hostile influences whichprevent any such thing at present, would become possible. I don'tclaim it as certain that such an experiment would have very greatresults. The radio was bureaucratised so early in its career thatthe relationship between broadcasting and literature has never beenthought out. It is not certain that the microphone is theinstrument by which poetry could be brought back to the commonpeople and it is not even certain that poetry would gain by beingmore of a spoken and less of a written thing. But I do urge thatthese possibilities exist, and that those who care for literaturemight turn their minds more often to this much-despised medium,whose powers for good have perhaps been obscured by the voices ofProfessor Joad and Doctor Goebbels.

The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief: …

The Broken Estate Essays on Literature and Belief

The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief …

Miller's books are published by the Obelisk Press in Paris. Whatwill happen to the Obelisk Press, now that war has broken out andJack Kathane, the publisher, is dead, I do not know, but at anyrate the books are still procurable. I earnestly counsel anyone whohas not done so to read at least TROPIC OF CANCER. With a littleingenuity, or by paying a little over the published price, you canget hold of it, and even if parts of it disgust you, it will stickin your memory. It is also an 'important' book, in a sensedifferent from the sense in which that word is generally used. As arule novels are spoken of as 'important' when they are either a'terrible indictment' of something or other or when they introducesome technical innovation. Neither of these applies to TROPIC OFCANCER. Its importance is merely symptomatic. Here in my opinion isthe only imaginative prose-writer of the slightest value who hasappeared among the English-speaking races for some years past. Evenif that is objected to as an overstatement, it will probably beadmitted that Miller is a writer out of the ordinary, worth morethan a single glance; and after all, he is a completely negative,unconstructive, amoral writer, a mere Jonah, a passive acceptor ofevil, a sort of Whitman among the corpses. Symptomatically, that ismore significant than the mere fact that five thousand novels arepublished in England every year and four thousand nine hundred ofthem are tripe. It is a demonstration of the impossibility of anymajor literature until the world has shaken itself into its newshape.

The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief

Now that I have made a clean breast of these deficiencies, letus proceed. From certain phrases in your letter I gather that youthink that poetry is in a parlous way, and that your case as apoet in this particular autumn Of 1931 is a great deal harderthan Shakespeare's, Dryden's, Pope's, or Tennyson's. In fact itis the hardest case that has ever been known. Here you give me anopening, which I am prompt to seize, for a little lecture. Neverthink yourself singular, never think your own case much harderthan other people's. I admit that the age we live in makes thisdifficult. For the first time in history there arereaders—a large body of people, occupied in business, insport, in nursing their grandfathers, in tying up parcels behindcounters—they all read now; and they want to be told how toread and what to read; and their teachers—the reviewers,the lecturers, the broadcasters—must in all humanity makereading easy for them; assure them that literature is violent andexciting, full of heroes and villains; of hostile forcesperpetually in conflict; of fields strewn with bones; of solitaryvictors riding off on white horses wrapped in black cloaks tomeet their death at the turn of the road. A pistol shot ringsout. "The age of romance was over. The age of realism hadbegun"—you know the sort of thing. Now of course writersthemselves know very well that there is not a word of truth inall this—there are no battles, and no murders and nodefeats and no victories. But as it is of the utmost importancethat readers should be amused, writers acquiesce. They dressthemselves up. They act their parts. One leads; the otherfollows. One is romantic, the other realist. One is advanced, theother out of date. There is no harm in it, so long as you take itas a joke, but once you believe in it, once you begin to takeyourself seriously as a leader or as a follower, as a modern oras a conservative, then you become a self-conscious, biting, andscratching little animal whose work is not of the slightest valueor importance to anybody. Think of yourself rather as somethingmuch humbler and less spectacular, but to my mind, far moreinteresting—a poet in whom live all the poets of the past,from whom all poets in time to come will spring. You have a touchof Chaucer in you, and something of Shakespeare; Dryden, Pope,Tennyson—to mention only the respectable among yourancestors—stir in your blood and sometimes move your pen alittle to the right or to the left. In short you are an immenselyancient, complex, and continuous character, for which reasonplease treat yourself with respect and think twice before youdress up as Guy Fawkes and spring out upon timid old ladies atstreet corners, threatening death and demandingtwopence-halfpenny.

The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief, by James Wood; xvi & 270 pp
The Broken Estate Essays on Literature and Belief.

The Broken Estate Essays On Literature And Belief

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In The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief, his first collection, ..

The Broken Estate, Essays on Literature and Belief by James

One of the essential experiences of war is never being able toescape from disgusting smells of human origin. Latrines are anoverworked subject in war literature, and I would not mention themif it were not that the latrine in our barracks did its necessarybit towards puncturing my own illusions about the Spanish civilwar. The Latin type of latrine, at which you have to squat, is badenough at its best, but these were made of some kind of polishedstone so slippery that it was all you could do to keep on yourfeet. In addition they were always blocked. Now I have plenty ofother disgusting things in my memory, but I believe it was theselatrines that first brought home to me the thought, so often torecur: 'Here we are, soldiers of a revolutionary army, defendingDemocracy against Fascism, fighting a war which is ABOUT something,and the detail of our lives is just as sordid and degrading as itcould be in prison, let alone in a bourgeois army.' Many otherthings reinforced this impression later; for instance, the boredomand animal hunger of trench life, the squalid intrigues over scrapsof food, the mean, nagging quarrels which people exhausted by lackof sleep indulge in.

The broken estate : essays on literature and belief. James Wood. Jonathan Cape, 1999

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Duncan Brown is Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Professor of English at the University of the Western Cape. He is also the author of "Voicing the Text: South African oral poetry and performance", "Oral Literature and Performance in Southern Africa", "To Speak of this Land: identity and belonging in South Africa and beyond" and "Religion and Spirituality in South Africa: new perspectives".