Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Storm Jameson

These quotes are from the beginning and end of a fascinating article by Storm Jameson, written in 1915, ie in the early days of World War One.

The dramatists are dead: the poets have gone to the funeral; as for the novelists, it is probable that they are down the area again. Bah! they were a sickly tribe.
We have been too careful of life - rather, of mere human lives. We have hedged it round with Poor Laws, with Care Committees, and Commissions on Infant Mortality, and the arts have perished in the atmosphere of fussy benevolence.

It's fascinating that, at a time when the world was launching itself on its first industrial scale slaughter, she was able to identify the prettification of ordinary life. This is not to say that she was dismissive of what was happening in France. The article concludes:

Reasons are the mere chaff of an argument. At the end it seems that there is neither poetry nor drama, because there are neither poets nor dramatists, but only jobbing versemakers and playwrights. A little while ago, and they might have pleaded the degradation of life for their own degradation. But life has gone to laugh at death on the flaming peaks and the arts may even slink down the valleys, tongues wagging and tails between legs.

Wow, that's good. If I'm reading that right, it says perfectly what I have been arguing about, with myself and on this blog, for some time: that we have lost proportion, that writers are mired in the trivia of the everyday and are making their work bloodless and soulless. We are losing sight of the monstrous in our midst. We are not asking the questions. We are not in touch with the flaming death that surrounds us. We mither on blithely about nothing and everything, knowing all the time that we are having no effect. Our writers are either ignorant of what is happening around us, or are wilfully ignoring it.

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