New York Times: “In his new book, ‘T. S. Eliot,’ the British poet Craig Raine gives us a new, more accessible Eliot, an Eliot he describes as a virtuosic fox in terms of style, and a single-minded hedgehog when it came to themes.”
Let me count the ways in which this sentence is stupid. For one thing, why the fuck should “The Waste Land” be “accessible?” It’s not as if Eliot’s masterpiece is a building that needs a fucking handicapped ramp. It’s an epic poem that requires you to take the damn thing apart and find out why it hits you in the gut. “After the torchlit red on sweaty faces?” Come on. It’s pretty fucking clear we’re not reading a Carl Hiassen thriller. It’s pretty fucking clear that we’re not talking about some bullshit dichotomy (Complex style! Simplistic themes! You see! No gray areas! Here’s a helpful bulleted list for you to bring to your book club after you bifurcate the fresh fruit!).
Single-minded hedgehog? Try looking at yourself in the mirror, Michiko.
“The Waste Land” is a poem that requires you to read other poems, that requires you to understand why so many other writers feel compelled to reference it. And poetry itself is a form that requires rereading and note taking and many other things that an active reader engages in (SURE AS FUCKING NOT MICHIKO, who has earned the Pulitzer Prize for the flaccid, worthless and, above, all abso-fucking-lutely bitter “reviews” she regularly files for that bulimic broadsheet).
Second, is Michiko such a reclusive and illiterate dunderhead that her review here is a matter of telling us what the fuck Craig Raine (who Michiko helpfully reminds us is “a poet himself”) is telling us? Are there absolutely no fucking brain cells she can access within her head? Nothing in all her years of reading that she can ruminate upon to give us some concept of what SHE MIGHT FUCKING THINK of T.S. Eliot? Can she not even offer one fucking sentence limning (to momentarily use that dreaded book review verb) Eliot’s prosody? Or is she hopelessly locked in this self-imposed literary menopause and just too damn absinthian to feel anything anymore?
If this is the case (and I suspect it is), then what we have here is a critic who approximates the living embodiment of Cliff’s Notes: dictatorial, synthesizing a process that has never been about a verbal heartbeat, and emitting generalizations in a way that discourages the next generation from literature. Because in this review, it’s not about the poetry, dammit. It’s about Eliot’s “buttoned-up banker’s mien.” It’s about personality. It’s about what Eliot had for breakfast or who he fucked or whether he ate a tuna fish sandwich before penning a canto. But it sure as fuck isn’t about “torchlit red on sweaty faces.” Because Michiko has no desire to sweat. She has no desire to feel. She has no desire to see what’s so fantastic about these five words. She has no desire to throw herself into anything approximating emotion. For Michiko, it’s all about how she can tear someone who’s struggled for years to produce something beautiful a new one in a matter of 1,000 words.
I’m sorry, but I’ve had enough. Why does the New York Fucking Times, the alleged vanguard newspaper that has the temerity to declare itself the cultural fucking gatekeeper, employ so many fucking people who could not give two solid shits about fiction? Who feel the need to stifle this fantastic art form with idiotic banter? Who feel the need to constantly shit upon it without expressing a glimmer of literary interest? And who treat the people who read these reviews like dark and dusty troglodytes who hole up under bridges with books rather than active thinkers who are part of our population?
© 2007, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.