Tuesday, February 22, 2011

`I Retain a Kind of Bucolic Distrust'

The label on the shelf in the used bookstore, black letters on white, reads:


Intent and tone can’t be read in so small a sample of text, but surely the inclusion of “IDEALISM” suggests irony or naiveté. Under the label were the usual suspects – a dozen copies of The Communist Manifesto, a German edition of Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie, selections from Das Kapital, The State and Revolution (hardcover, mint condition), the Little Red Book (small-format paperback, much worn), One-Dimensional Man, no Mein Kampf. A library of shame with the still-potent power to attract fools, busy-bodies and other idealists. As Eric Hoffer writes, “The true believer is without wonder and hesitation.”

I’m reading for the first time the final book Yvor Winters published in his lifetime, Forms of Discovery (1967), which carries the subtitle Critical & Historical Essays on the Forms of the Short Poem in English. Winters’ prose is punchy, cool and dry. There are moments when his critical writing lifts into something resembling wisdom literature, as in this common-sensical sentence from the section he devotes to J.V. Cunningham:

“I confess that I retain a kind of bucolic distrust of all theories which seem to be in obvious conflict with the facts of life.”

“Bucolic” is priceless.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Eric Hoffer is, as usual, right on the mark. I started reading his newspaper columns in the late 1960s. His words were the perfect antidote for all the cultural nonsense going on at that time. Solzhenitsyn was another writer whose words saved me from myself during my youth.