Monday, June 05, 2006

How the World Got To Be The Way It Is

Wherever he goes, Glavin takes in not only the mundane features of the world, but also its placenames and their histories, and the stories that people tell (“long ago it turned to water, they say, when a woman washed her feet in it”) about how the world got to be the way it is and how it might become (“there are people… who say that at the end of the world, the final battle of the last war will be fought up there… in a place called the Valley of the Black Pig”). Glavin gives a kind of equal, almost impartial, weight to all this information and telling. He doesn’t bog us down by asking, Now, was there actually a woman who washed her feet in the Stream of New Milk, and if so, when exactly, and what are the chemical transformations required to establish the fact of that story, if, indeed, it is a fact? Nor does he worry about the relation of myth to the mundane. Rather, he simply passes on the tale, requiring no more than that casual, elegant folk attribution of, they say. The effect is a kind of magical naturalism which insists that all of the material -- names, etymologies, the sounds of various languages, historical events, myths, poems, stories resting on the authority of they say -- must be vividly co-present if we’re to have a sense of reality sufficient to focus our attention. Otherwise, the world will be mere “scenery.” Glavin’s remarkable art as a writer is founded in that highly-charged way of seeing, to recall John Berger’s phrase, and it informs just about every passage, argument, claim, and meditative reflection in Waiting for the Macaws.

There aren't many reviews that I'd anticipate with worry, but when I heard that Stan Persky was going to write something about my book for Dooney's Cafe once he'd settled back down in Berlin, it was the tiniest bit nervous-making. I shouldn't have worried, of course, because Stan is so damn generous and gracious in everything he does. Of course, it would be a thoughtful and careful and serious essay. It's Stan, after all. But the weird thing about that guy is that he always gets, exactly, what I'm trying to do, even if I don't do it all that well.

Not that everybody's happy with me today. Writing in the Globe and Mail ("The Manifesto and Marx"), Angus Taylor writes:

The Euston Manifesto promoted by Terry Glavin (Shake It To The Left -- June 3) is presented as a bold reassertion of progressive political values intended to reinvigorate an enervated left that has lost its way. What we get instead is a laundry list of things we should all be against (evil dictators, racism, and suicide bombers) and things we should all be in favour of (democracy, human rights, and, uh, open-source software).

But the fundamental failing of the Euston Manifesto goes beyond its simplistic "Saddam bad, U.S. good" logic. The manifesto presents neither a coherent analysis of the world's problems nor any plan for solving them. One does not have to be a Marxist to believe that the role of capitalism, an economic system that requires endless growth and is eating the planet alive, at least needs to be addressed. The manifesto does not even mention the word.

That's a good summation of a consensus that's emerging in certain quarters about how the manifesto should be greeted: 1. Be snide. 2. Dismiss it as a mere laundry list. 3. Criticize it for not doing things it doesn't set out to do in the first place.

"One does not have to be a Marxist" to type "euston manifesto" and get 328,000 hits on Google today, either. But now I'm being snide.

Taylor might profit (sorry, dirty word) from reading this.

4 Comments:

Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Not that everybody's happy with me today.

Well, who would want to be right all the time?

Congratulations on the good review from Persky, and FYI when I asked Blackberry Books on Granville Island if they had it in yet, the clerk immediately knew the title, apologized for it not being available, and said that they were waiting impatiently for it as there had been several requests.

I may have to stoop to getting it from Amazon.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Dirk Buchholz said...

The way I see and interpet the EM is that it is but a way for certain writers and bloggers to define themselves and some of their views.Its a kind of response to a tendency of so many to divide complex events,and people into groups defined as left or right.
Other than that I can't see the EU changing much of anything.The people that need to be engaged with and convinced are the average joe,worker,you know the guy and gal on the street,the "great unwashed" etc...
Also the number of hits recieved are rather meaningless

2:12 PM  
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