Saturday, December 12, 2015

BAE 1988 as read by Amy Leach

Recently I learned that Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are no longer cool. Excoriated for being solitary, for not thinking in tandem, for not riding on the bicycle built for a thousand, Ralph and Henry have been blacklisted by the Coalition of Cool. How distressed are they by the censure? Probably not very; I haven’t noticed people getting more interested in status after they die, and these two were reckless and refractory to begin with. Burros rarely compromise and the ghosts of burros, never.

For fun, here’s a little solidarity with the solitaries, with Emerson and Thoreau who still dazzle me to smithereens, and with Charles Simic, in his essay “Reading Philosophy at Night,” insisting on the authority of his own experience: “All my experiences make a kind of untaught ontology which precedes all my readings.” I like to read about the solitary reader reading about solitary readers—“My own solitude doubled, tripled…” I like to read about the man bedeviled not by status but by memory—why can he remember pebbles but not faces?—and by dreams—why can he dream his old house but cannot dream his grandmother looking out of the window?—bedeviled by Wittgenstein and bedeviled by why, Parmenides’ why, Simic’s why, my why: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

Best or not best, American or not American, essay or not essay, 1988 or 1841—I don’t really care, I just want to read someone like Simic who dreams, reads, thinks, remembers, and speaks for himself, especially if that self is refractory and drawn to the impossible.


Amy Leach is the author of Things That Are. Her work has been published in A Public Space, Tin House, Orion, the Los Angeles Review, and many others. She has been recognized with the Whiting Writers’ Award, Best American Essays selections, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Award, and a Pushcart Prize. She plays bluegrass, teaches English, and lives in Montana. 

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