“Ask anyone who has experienced the kind of success I am talking about — What good is it? Perhaps to get an honest answer you will have to give him a shot of truth serum but the word he will finally groan is unprintable in genteel publications.
“Then what is good? The obsessive interest in human affairs, plus a certain amount of compassion and moral conviction, that first made the experience of living something that must be translated into pigment or music or bodily movement or poetry or prose or anything that’s dynamic and expressive — that’s what’s good for you if you’re at all serious in your aims. William Saroyan wrote a great play on this theme, that purity of heart is the one success worth having. ‘In the time of your life — live!’ That time is short and it doesn’t return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, loss, loss, unless you devote your heart to its opposition” (Williams 1947, 104-105).
Williams, Tennessee. 1947. “The Catastrophe of Success.” In The Glass Menagerie, 99-105. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation.
A. O. Scott (2016) promises more with the title of his new book Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth — than he provides in its pages.
I was intrigued near the end when Scott explores the relationship between criticism and scholarship. I’ve long wondered about the usefulness of studying literature in schools where, at least in my experience, teachers too often ruin the experience for students. Continue reading “Hidden Pleasures”
I saw Eddie Bocanegra on the stairs after I had seen him on a screen. He had a few minutes, he said, before class, so we talked about his role in The Interrupters, a film about violence in Chicago neighborhoods that I had recently seen, and his experiences as a student. Then he went to his class while I continued to the bus stop. At that time, I was struck by how upfront and open he was, especially given his experiences, and I’ve sometimes wondered what he has been doing since his graduation. Now I know.