11 November 2009

after postmodernism

In 1976 I was caught out in Lake Ontario in a very small boat, in rolling and tumbling waves far larger than any I had experienced on even the roughest days on Cayuga Lake. When I found land, my fingers were bleeding from grasping the gunwales, and my muscles were locked in something I might have called a death grip. Reaching the harbor and tying up at the dock – to the astonishment of those persons in the boatyard wiser than to venture out on such a day – was a moment I later came to recognize as an authoritative experience, in which there was nothing rhetorical, ironic, or satiric, about finding safe harbor.
I feel that way about Henry James. I had not imagined that anything could challenge the finite, unassailable core of Daisy and Isabel and Kate and Charlotte, until the last couple of years when I read In Search of Lost Time and had the many obscure months afterward to site the stars, and locate my one true path back to James through Proust.
Pound had presciently and famously recognized Joyce’s Ulysses as an end, not a beginning. Until literary greatness is thrust upon us once again, we will seek to find a new thinker futilely. Richard Price, especially in Lush Life, is returning to the quay of Henry James, permitting the next insurgency, which we may have difficulty recognizing.

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