Wednesday, May 11, 2005
More Idolatry, more William Logan
It may seem that I can't think about American Idol without adverting to William Logan. Not true. I did, however, want to post a favorite passage of mine--a beautiful paragraph that makes the phrase critical prose sound pathetically crabbed and insipid. Hold onto your hats:
Every poem of value must have a residue. A residue is not a mystery or a withholding. It is the result of a continual ignition in the language, a combustion in the nearness of words--it is what lies beneath the surface value of words. We can wear out a poem as we wear out a favorite jacket or joke. In a minor poem the residue is small and easily exhausted, but in the greatest it suffers a constant renewal. It cannot be exhausted because our lives are not long enough to do so. Indeed, in the greatest poetry the residue may seem to increase as our experience increases--that is, as we become more ruefully sensitive to the fire in its familiar words.Tremendous. I think the greatest prose harbors a similar residue, possibly in a more dilute form. To read the rest you'll have to buy Reputations of the Tongue. Need I say more?