Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day 2008

Most people don't realize that in 1919 the United States was on the verge of revolution-- that on May Day of that year four million working people went on strike in cities and towns throughout the country. There were demonstrations and riots everywhere.

It was an amazing day little covered by America's writers-- except, strangely enough, by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his great story "May Day." Even though he comes at the day from an aspect of privilege, he well captures the turmoil and mood which existed.

His story is also a good example of how the literary art has changed-- become increasingly narrowed. Notice his great opening paragraph which gives context and scope to his story-- making the reader aware that his characters exist WITHIN a civilization; are part of the sweep of history.

Fitzgerald, of course, though not a naturalist himself (though he kind of tried to become one in his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned,) had been influenced by the great naturalists, who at the time he wrote the story were still an enormous influence on our literature.

Compare Fitzgerald's story with the similar one by J.D. Salinger, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," which borrowed Fitz's ending, to see how the art of the story began changing around 1950, becoming more narcissistic-- a trend which has continued to now.


david said...

Art is inherently narcissistic. If you think your own view deserves to be heard, that's the arrogance of an artist. And hurrah for it!

Anonymous said...

Most people don't realize that in 2005 China was on the verge of revolution. But internet censorship prevented free speech from being established. Google was a key participant in these repressive measures:
Google supporter king wenclas says, "buy products"! Support the repressive regime!

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

Well, okay, I guess I'm supposed to disband my blogs altogether, to be consistent.
is that what you wish?
Unilateral disarmament on my part?
Meanwhile, the literary establishment allows itself everything.
Only the lone rebel is supposed to stand without weapons.
What you ask for is surrender.
Sorry, chump, it won't happen.
I'll continue to speak out-- using this outlet, which I enjoy no better than you-- but the System leaves me no choice, if i'm to have a voice.
Contradictory. Inconsistent. So be it.
A typical reactionary-- our large blob of Jello! I wonder how long he's waited to catch me in the tiniest inconsistency.
Well, that will happen. I'm not perfect. far from it.
I no longer lead the literary Resistance.
I just give my two cents. Apparently even that is enough to disturb the status quo representatives. . . .

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

Re "Art is inherently narcissistic."
There are few periods in history when a writer or artist would have made such a statement, whether an epic poet like Homer capturing the voice and history of a people; or the great painters and sculptors of the Renaissance using art as a way to proclaim God; on up to America's literary naturalists, who saw their novels as a way to communicate to the nation at large. Hardly narcissists. They understood that the artist is part of a social context; that he expresses himself for, and through, that context.
David's statement is an indication WHY our literature today is trivial.
It's such a revealing statement, in fact, that I'd like to frame it. Too bad I can't append a name to it, so I can quote it in my arguments.

Anonymous said...

Hey, King, you gots to be a narcissist yourself to think that what you write and the way you write has any value at all to anyone anywhere ever.

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

Yeah, but I've got you reading it!

Anonymous said...

Believing that your own opinions, that the details of your individual experience, are of value to society at large is in fact the definition of narcissism. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's narcissistic.
Homer didn't capture the voice of a people; he captured a particular point of view. That's what all artists do. The point of view of a Philly undergrounder is no closer to representing the voice of America than a rich kid.

And if you want to quote me, I'm David Hopler. I don't represent the voice of America, either.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, typo, Jopler is my last name. And yep, I have an advanced degree.

King said...

Well, you're wrong, David.
Narcissism is extreme self-love-- an obsession with self.
Life, otherwise, is a balance between the needs of the self, and the obligations to the community, the framework in which all of us live.
Part of living in a democracy is knowing that we are part of a community, and have the right-- and the duty-- to be heard. Speaking out about social issues or any issues is hardly narcissistic.
By your definition, EVERYONE who acts in the public sphere in any way is a narcissist, which shatters the meaning of the word.

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

"--no closer to representing the voice of America than a rich kid."
True, as far as it stands.
Left unsaid is that the voices of rich kids ARE very much being heard in this society-- the NY-based media is flooding the landscape with these voices. A huge amount of money goes toward promoting and disseminating those voices.
The only way I can be heard is by running a few blogs.

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

p.s. Curious, isn't it, that there's always debate about my wanting to have the smallest voice in the lit world-- yet no one asks the same thing about the plethora of privileged whose books and articles fill every magazine stand and bookstore.

Anonymous said...

Nobody's debating your right to have a voice. They just find the voice annoying and wrong. That other voices are also annoying and wrong is no excuse.