Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Few Thoughts

Not very long ago I was lounging in the bath, reading Arthur Quiller-Couch's ON THE ART OF WRITING, and came across a great quote...

"What do I argue from this? I argue that until we can bring more intellectual freedom into our State, 'joy in the widest commonalty spread,' upon you, a few favoured ones, rest an obligation to see that the springs of English poetry do not fail. I put it to you that of this glory of our birth and state you are the temporary stewards. I put it to the University, considered as a dispenser of intellectual light, that to treat English poetry as though it had died with Tennyson and your lecturers had but to compose the features on a corpse, is to abnegate high hope for the sake of a barren convenience."

Now, I've got nothing against arranging the features on a corpse (especially if I can make him stick his tongue out at the next of kin), but this really stuck with me. Literature should be a living thing. I know I focus a lot on the works of authors of the past, but I know that I (and by extension, you) shouldn't be exclusive about it. The present has a lot to offer and even when we think about the past, we have to remember the old saying, "What is past is prologue." The past shouldn't be ignored, but it shouldn't be idolized as the pinnacle of achievement. Rather, it should function to inspire current generations to try their hand, to maybe do one better, to reach higher and farther.

Here's Q in his younger days:

Handsome devil, eh? Q (as he was known) was also quite the ghost-story writer; look up stories like "The Laird's Luck" and "Roll-Call of the Reef" to sample his work. He was also a prominent poet, editor of the famous OXFORD BOOK OF ENGLISH VERSE, and a prominent literary critic and educator. ON THE ART OF WRITING is a collection of lectures he delivered from 1913 to 1914, and while sometimes dense has its moments of light. He was a big influence on one my personal muses, Helene Hanff of 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD fame. So if you're of the creative kind, get out there and create something new!

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