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May 13, 1967 - Image 12

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Michigan Daily, 1967-05-13
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4 4 I * 4

Outside
the
"In'
Mu51C from Inside Out, by Ned
Rorem. George Braziller. $4.00.
The Sense of an Ending, by Frank
Kermode. Oxford University Press.
$5.75.
Ned Rorem made the best-seller
lists a few months ago with his Par-
is Diary, a book widely admired for
its candor-which is to say Rorem
did not hesitate to reveal his sexual
virtuosity. It was a non-book,
though interesting for its gossip and
for Rorem's presentation of himself
as an accomplished, if now well-
known, musician able to move easi-
ly in artistic and aristocratic circles.
The price for this social success
was, paradoxically enough, that his
music was ignored. But Rorem was
probably encouraged by the recep-
tion of his last book; so this new
one, Music from Inside Out, may be
an attempt to win the reputation his
social forays could not achieve.
Frank Kermode, on theother
hand, enjoys a well-established rep-
utation as a literary critic. He had
arrived long before Rorem began
mucking around in Paris. He is list-
ed in Bateson, and this new book,
The Sense of an Ending, was origi-
nally written for the Mary Flexner
Lectureship at Bryn Mawr Col-
lege-a series which has in the past
included such thinkers as Breasted,
Whitehead, Richards and, most re-
cently, Henri Peyre. Kermode and
Rorem are clearly out to prove dif-
ferent things.
In one sense, however, Kermode
and Rorem think alike. There is the
obvious difference in subject mat-
ter, and the fact that one book is
the product of a skilled and widely
experienced critic, while the other
is not; but both writers work from a
single critical assumption. Conse-
quently, the discussion of music or
of literature, of the hard fate of the
novel or the art song, expresses a
single aesthetic.
Kermode's procedure is to work
from a discussionof fiction in gen-
eral to a more particular discussion
of the novel, and finally to offer his
judgements and prophecies on the
future of the novel in English. It is
a logical progression, but it ob-
scures Kermode's real subject: the
function of the novel (to "mitigate
our existential anguish"), and the
failure of most contemporary fic-

tion, especially French fiction, -to
fulfill its obligations. This is a rath-
er lengthy argument, perhaps the
definitive English answer to the
nouveau roman and the heresies of
Robbe-Grillet, but it can be briefly
summarized.

'a

44

A

V,

.A-

41

Fiction is defined in terms of its
producer and its audience, and Ker-
mode gives a peculiarly modern
twist to this old neoidealistic formu-
a. Placed in the context of a con-
emporary audience, fiction be-
comes a means of soothing our col-
.ective anxiety; it is a consolation
prize for "the utter difference, the
utter shapelessness, and the utter
inhumanity" of the world; its para-
digms are to be found in the Chris-
tian Bible, in Genesis and Revela-
tion, in the form that can be given
reality by the imposition of begin-
ning and "the sense of an ending."

Of all fictions, the novel is both the
modern apocalypse and the re-
sponse to a prevailing apocalyptic
mood. It is a way of controlling our
"eschatological anxiety."
And since these are the uses of
fiction, there are two specific
abuses against which Kermode
argues. Fiction must not degenerate
into the rigidity of "myth," nor
must it fall into the pure formless-
ness "of the cut-out writers, and the
card-shuffle writers." Any attempt
to impose a coherent form on an
essentially incoherent reality will

produce a fiction. The novel, howev-
er, -must always attempt to achieve
"concordance," defined as an orga-
nization of reality in terms of a be-
ginning, middle and end.
The mythical novel, apparently,
assumes that its fiction is literally
true. It takes its formalization of
reality (the foundation for its own
existence) as reality itself, and con-
sequently becomes "false" either by
explaining too much or by imposing
(Continued on page tent

Sophisticated Primitivism

The Savage Mind, by Claude Levi.
Strauss. University of Chicago
Press. $5.95.
There are apparently only two re-
quirements for reading this recent
contribution to the field of philo-
sophical anthropology: first, to have
read the author's preceding work
on Totemism (1963) and Sartre's
Critique de la raison dialectique
(1960) and second, to keep an una-
bridged dictionary on hand at all
times. The former is, in effect, rec-
ommended by the author himself,
who warns in the preface that "the
reader should know what is expect-
ed of him. . .: that he acquiesce in
the negative conclusion which the
first volume reached in regard to
totemism; for, once it is clear why I
believe that the anthropologists of
former times were prey to an illu-
sion, it is time for me to explore
totemism's positive side." He con-
tinues with an illusion to Sartre's
view of the "philosophical funda-
m e n t s of anthropology"-with
which he disagrees.
The second requirement stems
from the author's extensive use of
terms relating particularly to his
topic, or having obscure anthropol-
ogical connotations. This vocabu-
lary can be distracting (not to say
maddening) to the uninitiated, but
its value lies in precise expression
of otherwise vague or illusory ideas.
For example, in concluding a dis-
cussion of familiar animal names,
he says, "If, therefore, birds are
metaphorical human beings and
dogs, metonymical human beings,
cattle may be thought of as meto-
nymical inhuman beings, and race
horses as metaphorical inhuman
beings." (p. 207) The logic of the
statement is supported by preced-
ing paragraphs, but its purport is
nonetheless amazing.
Levi-Strauss's bold appropriation
of concepts from ordinarily unrelat-
ed subjects for the formulation of
his own intricate ideas demands
close attention. In learning to un-
derstand his unusual usage, howev-
er, we are exercising our mental
faculties for the more difficult task
of penetrating the construct he
makes. The question is this: having
arrived at the weighty pronounce-
ment of the metonymic and meta-
phoric relations between animal

and man, do we know why and how
a hound came to be called "Rover"
instead of "Jonathan Jo"? Perhaps
after a second reading.
The organization of The Savage
Mind is designed to frighten away
all but the most hardy (stubborn?)
readers. After making the ominous
remarks about the two other books
upon which this one is based, Levi-
Strauss plunges into a chapter of
philosophical groundwork that can
be overcome only with utmost per-
sistence. The process of getting into
it is rather like jumping into a
swimming pool-the initial shock is
deterring, but after a short time the
"cold" becomes "cool" and stimu-
lating. The middle chapters are
more concerned with "case histo-
ries" which are, predictably, more
interesting, or at least a trifle eas-
ier to read. Throughout the book,
the author copiously illustrates his
theories. Unfortunately, these ex-
amples are sometimes less pertinent
than they might be, and trying to
understand their relevance is a
problem.
In his discussion of the "mind in
its untamed state as distinct from
mind cultivated or domesticated for
the purpose of yielding a return,"
the author explores the problem:
"to what extent thought that can
and will be both anecdotal and geo-
metrical may yet be called dialecti-
cal." (p. 245) Without some back-
ground in anthropology or psychol-
ogy, the arguments are difficult to
follow. Even a novice in the field,
however, could find the book fasci-
nating, if only for some of the inci-
dental comments.
After an unemotional description
of the individuality of personalities,
for instance, Levi-Strauss con-
cludes: "When the loss of someone
dear to us or of some public person-
age such as a politician or writer or
- artist moves us, we suffer much the
same sense of irreparable privation
that we should experience were
rosa centifolia to become extinct
and its scent to disappear forever."
(p. 214) Can he be serious? And his
footnotes, strangely enough, are
especially interesting and often
amusing. Perhaps as a relief from

his sometimes stilted style, he lets
himself go at the bottom of the page
with an ironic or divergent remark.
Simplified references are made
within the text and expanded in a
bibliography in the back, so tedious
numbered notes are avoided with
no loss of accuracy. The method is
very efficient and not at all distract-
ing.
If the first part of the book may
be instructive for an amateur, it be-
comes painfully obvious in the final
chapter that at least a passing ac-
quaintance with Sartre is necessary
to understand the basic concepts.
The language is technically philo-
sophical, and the content is a refu-
tation of previously stated argu-
ments. The last page, reached with
only the greatest endurance, is--
incredibly-just a place of depar-
ture.
Mary Sue Leighton
Miss Leighton is a second-year stu-
dent in Russian Civilization at The
University of Chicago.

Merrill Poems
(Continued from page seven)
Merrill is concerned with the
dilemma of Psyche, to whom he
often refers and compares himself
as poet. Man's character is the only
related meaning .that cannot be per-
ceptively divided; it remains color-
less and black even in Merrill's
-glassy and shimmering world. If
he, like Psyche or any human soul,
should light the lamp on this seem-
ingly unequivalent union with body
and mind (or Eros); if there were
any light capable of penetrating the
prism of man's personality and re-
leasing the spectrum of humanity; if
we were to see truth apart from the
obstacles and obscurity-the "gilt
wash"; might we, like Psyche, not
also despair at the curiosity and
i........................
Enlightenment
Christian orientation dominated
every phase of society. Philosophers
like Rousseau and Condillac main-
tained that medieval thought was
hostile to the advance of science.
The preservation of Christianized
classic literature in Medieval times
permitted the Renaissance examina-
tion of classic antiquity. The Re-
naissance was viewed by the En-
lightenment as a transition period
when the critical mentality could be
revived as Christian institutions
were questioned. Although even
such admired figures as Locke and
Newton were identified as Chris-
tians, the age represented a move
toward the realistic, eclectic men-
tality so highly valued by the En-
lightenment. The tension between
Christianity and the philosophical
mind became more apparent as ele-
ments of Stoicism became associat-
ed with Christian thought. Scholars
such as Grotius and Locke attempt-
ed to place Christianity on a ration-
al basis, preserving some central
tenets and discarding peripheral, su-
perstitious elements.
In tracing the historical trends
which made the development of
modern paganism possible, Peter
Gay displays a sympathy for those
in every age who tended toward the
critical mentality and rejection of
myth. Yet he admits that the Eight-
eenth Century philosophes in their
criticism of Christianity were often
excessively harsh, and guilty of mis-
reading history,
Mr. Gay's extensive bibliography
not only lists his sources but dis-
cusses them in a bibliographic es-
say. The basis of organization for
the book is also treated in the final
essay. Gay, an admitted liberal in
his teaching of the Enlightenment,
takes care in his analysis of Chris-
tian history and classical literature
to observe the objectivity so highly
prized by the critical minds of the
period.
Marjory Woods
Miss Woods is a second-year student
majoring in philosophy at Loyola Uni-
versity.

virtuosity that prompted us to ex-
pose the cold, drab colors worn be-
hind the artist's thin varnish?
Is it too late to study ignorance
These fitive lives these loves of
the comedian
so like so unlike ours which hurt
and heal
are what the gods know You can
feel
lust and fulfillment Eros no more
thian
ocean its salit depths or uranium its
hot
disintergrative force or I our fable
My interest like the rain
grown feeble
a film of sorrow on my eyes they
shut
I may already be part god Asleep
awake
some afterglow as of a buried
heaven
keeps flickering through me
Merrill replies in the negative. The
world is too in love with its reflec-
tions and divisions. Like Psyche,
we love the colors we remember
in the prism of human imagination
even though we may be disillu-
sioned by the colors we see.
Eventually, as one delves into the
shadows and glimmerings of Nights
and Days, Merrill's poems assume
the task of viewing cold existence
with creative imagination and skill
capable of remembering the colors
when they were part of a brilliant,
clean whole.
BucklUng, heights, depths,
Into a pool of eac'h nigt's rain?
But you were everywhere beside
me, masked,
As who was not, in laughter, pain,
and love.
Life's purely deceiving lights, as
we penetrated into their truths and

obscurities through these poems,
are eventually united into a feel-
ing, as the poet describes it,
"vaguely satis-"
Bonnie Birtwistle
Miss Birtwistle is a first-year student
in arts and sciences at Valparaiso Uni-
versity.
DIRECT FROM PEKING
The original 'little red book'
QUOTATIONS FROM
MAO TSE-TUNG
800,000,000 people -1/5of the world.-
live according to the tenets of this official
handbook ofnthe Red Guards. Shouldn't you
know what's in the origia, official English
version of what has become the world's
bestselling book?

c
C
The
J
The
:Jour
The
Mod(
Pers
a
:The
Te ch
The,
The
EL

James Dickey
Poems 1957-1967
Poems 1957-1967 presents the major work of the man whom
critics and readers have designated beyond any other as the
authentic poet ofhis American generation. The book includes
sixty-eight pages of forceful new poetry - a book in itself - that
demonstrates significant change and stylistic maturity. For this
collection, James Dickey has also selected from his four pub-
lished books those poems that reflect his truest interests and his
growth as an artist.
"Masculine, compassionate, essentially conservative, Dickey's
poems are incarnations-of remembered joy and pain, a quietly
intense celebration of the senses, an acceptance of the inherently
fragic yet wonder-awakening landscape of man -the qualities,
in short, of a good national poet circa the sixties."
-Kirkus Service
"The new poems are stronger and darker in mood than the
earlier ones... ." - Publishers' Weekly
315 pages. $6.95
Comments on James Dickey's
Buchdancer's Choice
winner of the National Book
Award in Poetry for 1966:
James Dickey is one of the first-rank poets of our time..... Surely
whatever poetry of our time is remembered, this will be a part
of it." - MILLER WILLIAMS, Shenandoah
"Buckdancer's Choice is the finest volume of poetry to appear
in the sixties. . .." - CHARLES MONAGHAN, The Commonweal

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.. . of A t '

May, 1967 * MIDWEST LIT,

4 MIDWEST LITERARY R1

R E Y I E W 9 May,.1947

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