Sunday, April 13, 2008

Literature and Politics: Sunday Salon

Blogging time out. I've knocked on more than 300 doors the last few weekends canvasing for Obama... out doing voter registration before that... and final exams coming up with stacks of papers to grade. No time, no time, no time...

The First-Paragraph short fiction review experiment is still underway, but I'll not be likely to do more than post a few additional first paragraph profiles until after the Pennsylvania primary on the 22nd.

I feel a powerful inclination to escape it all, to crawl into a corner, retreat from the world, post on Barking dog, work on my novel... tend my garden.

But if I don't stand up and do my part as a citizen, what have I done, but give my blessing to a world where we are all of us, terrorists. A charnel house waiting to receive the bones of our children and our children's children?

Aristole--and Hannah Arendt--were... are right.

We are political animals.

We cannot escape it. Either we work to shape our political condition, or we leave the world in the hands of the tyrants: Goya's monsters devouring all who do not serve their interests.

If we want to be free as artists, as writers, to commit our work to an ideal beyond politics, beyond propaganda--then how can we defend that claim to aesthetic freedom if we don't enter the public forum, acting as citizens of our neighborhoods, our cities, our nations... of the one great world we have in common?

I want to work on my novel. Volunteering robs me of the time. But I refuse to acknowledge the contradiction. Only by holding to both--even as they seem to pull us in different directions, do we enter fully into the human condition.

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