Friday, September 20, 2013

Literary Bleeding Hearts

20th September 2013

I'm sending my galley proofs back to the publisher today. I do hope others are proof reading it, because I caught quite a lot of errors and there must be more that I didn't see.
Now I can devote my day to reading Pulitzer prize winner Paul Harding's new book "Enon." Like Steinbeck and Hemmingway, he might one day be  discussed as one of the big names in American literature, and so it is exciting to watch his career unfold. He got a three-book deal (everyone seems to, except me!) from Random House and so he is under obligation to churn a couple more out. A lot of pressure, which is not conducive to the production of any good art. Art demands space, and that's why I decided to write a canon of five books before sending the first out. Writing is a gossamer art - reach for it too hard and it slips between your fingers.
After much resistance, I am now tweeting once a day. (@kilmartin1978) Twitter's strength and its weakness is its word limit. Half the time you're referencing other people. No room for theses or even half-formed ideas. The good thing is, no one is going to waste your time for long. It's a funny little virtual world,  opening up a space for people to matter, if only for just a sentence or two, as they always did in our pre-industrial revolution communities. Once money became the benchmark for the value of people, a person was only as good as their labour. We have been on a de-humanising track for many centuries, but the pendulum is swinging, as it always does, and we have created this cloud-space for the significance of individuals. I believe in the Gaia principle which holds that the universe is intelligent and will redress imbalance within itself. Humanity has become a limping wounded spectacle, and perhaps our race-course to the end of the technological venture is simply all about this: finding out again who we are. In the immortal words of a bard named Eliot, "The end of all our searching will be to arrive where we started and know that place for the first time."
So, if we get to that place, presumably a place without pain, will there be room for art? Or does art necessarily spring from bleeding hearts?  If Hermann Hesse is right that art is the great universalizing mirror, then surely not.  Ode to Joy is as much art as Sartre's Nausea. It is just that for a long time we have approached reality with a gnawing sense of dyspepsia, with the existential angst that has perpetrated much of writing and the other arts for a long time now. But perhaps as the pendulum swings and we find ourselves back at the beginning seeing ourselves again for the first time, literature and music and the visual arts will evolve back into vessels of celebration. What has been subverted into sentimentalism will break out into a grand Hallelujah. And now I am sounding like Martin Luther King. I have a dream....
The rain that has been pouring on Colorado and breaking records and washing away houses has settled into a cold drizzle that last night left its first covering of snow in the high country. I can see snow-capped mountains from my office window, and I am fine with it, just as long as it stays up there for now. I don't mind if the water-logged leaves stay green and the fields refuse to give up hay. I don't mind the mushrooms and moss and the days spent beneath low cloud. I am not a child of the high country nor even of this continent. My ancestors lived in the mulching ground and slept on beds of damp moss. My ancestors never breathed in a gulp of dry air in their short lives. And so it comes down through the DNA, this ease with rain. Leave me out in it. I might even grow roots.

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