Saturday, October 4, 2008
Past is prologue
Pet gripe: Those who say we shouldn't feel any compunction read the classics because they aren't written in today's wonderful, exciting, easy-to-read style. My response: Today doesn't last more than today, and pretty soon "today's" wonderful style will be relegated to the same position as the styles of bygone ages. If we aren't versatile enough to be able to approach style via the parameters of its particular age, then we have become slaves to shallow fashion and the future looks bleak indeed. Literature is a growing language, one that brings about a cumulative understanding over years, decades, centuries, millennia. To read, or write, without reference to the past risks a hollow, dare I say, dangerous, experiencing. Don't forget Toynbee's admonishment. Oh, sorry, you probably haven't read Toynbee since he wrote so long ago and his style is too archaic to stomach. It's like a captain of a ship dismissing any prior experiences at sea and any knowledge of the principles of navigation. That ship will get nowhere fast. I am not against new, "modern" styles--far from it--but for goodness' sake, don't tell me we should reject what has come before as rubbish just because we are too stubborn to imagine a different time and a different place. I think with a little discernment and loosening of now-centric attitudes, we can see that those in the past aren't as different from us today as we might think. And if they are, so much the better for opening up new perspectives for us today.
Posted by Christopher Paul Carey at 5:35 PM