25 February 2009

Richard Howard

[from Richard Howard's Without Saying, Turtle Point Press, 2008]

[excerpt from "Only Different," an exchange of letters, including this one from L. Frank Baum]

. . . I have long since
accepted Theosophy's doctrines, and
rejoice that my wife Maud and I had met
in Earlier Incarnations . . . And like
William James, I too attend séances
in the hope of obtaining objective
evidence of the reality of spirits
and the afterlife. Unfortunately
I could not find in Henry James's book
a trace of the spiritual. Such writing
                       supports literature
like the rope that holds
a hanged man, and this book What Maisie Knew,
seems merely an overheated hothouse,
perfumed but tainted, for in this James's
London society, transgressions of
the Few bear witness to depravities
of the Many.The novelist himself
has taken sick, and his toilsome language
creeps across the page, line after crapulous
line, like so many worms (though merely words!) . . .
Professor Porter, I have endeavored,
                       with my girls and boys,
to articulate
all that is healthy and, in every sense,
spirited in the Youth of our country;
had I taken poor Maisie as a sign
or (Lord help us!) a model, Dorothy
could never have survived a day in Oz,
for what is Oz but where we are, Magic
and all? . . . At the end, what Maisie knew is
what everyone else knows already: who
has money, who hasn't. It is William James
who tells the Truth: our American form
                       of fulfillment is
"worship of the bitch-
goddess success." That is our national
disease -- yet all I find in his brother's
novel, in which he chews so much more
than he can bite off, is bitching
about the bush. No goddess even . . .

Without Saying

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