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X-posted to Long Sunday

Michael Wood, in Children of Silence:

Auden thought a critic had an obligation to declare his or her idea of Eden, because the pleasure of a work of art, at the moment of enjoyment, is our pleasure and not someone else’s:

So long as a man writes poetry or fiction, his dream of Eden is his own business, but the moment he starts writing literary criticism, honesty demands that he describe it to his readers, so that they may be in the position to judge his judgments,

Or even just to look at the critic’s assumptions, I’m inclined to believe that writers of any kind do in fact declare their dream of Eden, whether they set out to or not – at least in implication, and for those readers who care to find it. And I’m not sure that their dream of Eden is the first thing I want to know about a critic, or anyone else. I might want to know about their idea of affection, or their notion of cruelty. But then perhaps these things are already contained in the dream of Eden.

Auden pursued his game quite literally, that is, follow out the metaphor with entire owlish seriousness. He wanted to know what Eden would look like and how it would be ruled, and grouped his questions under these headings: landscape, climate, ethnic origin of inhabitants, language, weights and measures, religion, size of capital, form of government, sources of natural power, economic activities, means of transport, architecture, domestic furniture and equipment, formal dress, sources of public information, public statues , public entertainments.

Wood wisely steps away from the game soon after trying a few questions on for size. Are you wise enough to do the same?

I’m not…


LANDSCAPE: lots, please. But definitely salt-water in abundance…

CLIMATE: temperate, but without NYC’s summer humidity, thank you very much.

ETHNIC ORIGIN OF INHABITANTS: diverse, of course.

LANGUAGE: a toughy. I do like French+English, Montreal-style, but will have to say Latin. No, Esperanto.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Metric, but someone will have to teach it to me. And imperial Pints reserved for beery nostalgia.

RELIGION: Bah! God, today we were at the playground with the baby, and for the umpteenth time someone asked us “So what church do you go to” with that special gleam in their eye. The Church of Man… and animals too… (not like this). Believers will be laughed at and maybe stoned into said salt-water.

SIZE OF CAPITAL: At least as big as this.

FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Government? Who said there had to be one? OK, if I answer honestly, ginormous. Everyone is employed by it, every single man, woman, and child. “Form” you said? Sprawling… More than nominally democratic.

SOURCES OF NATURAL POWER: This will do…

ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES: dissertation writing, new (but better) media work. And unalienated production of stuff I like…. Mac laptops, Stella Artois, Thai food, obscure books… .

MEANS OF TRANSPORT: foot and trams, the latter a la Toronto. Plentiful and cheap long-haul flights to points beyond…

ARCHITECTURE: another toughy: brutalist. huge crops of high rise apartment blocks. But walkable, somehow.

DOMESTIC FURNITURE AND EQUIPMENT: IKEA! It’s pre-designed to fit into machines for living, brutalist godless utopia! But in utopia, I can find a drill bit that fits their screws! And I suppose we could do without the labor conditions, the long supply lines spewing smog, etc…

FORMAL DRESS: I was going to say none, but what about:

rodchenko-suit-27.jpg

SOURCES OF PUBLIC INFORMATION: You’re looking at it. That and lots of papers, read aloud to us as we sew, build, fix.

PUBLIC STATUES: I’ve been kind of in to this one lately. Abstract public statues almost always suck, don’t they?

PUBLIC ENTERTAINMENTS: Basking in the here and now. Tai chi for the older folks, en masse, in the parks. Soccer, even if we’re all a little burned out.

Written by adswithoutproducts

July 15, 2006 at 2:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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