Sunday, May 17, 2015

de mortuis

Facebook friends’ links to Franz Wright’s obituary at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/16/arts/franz-wright-pulitzer-prize-winner-for-poetry-dies-at-62.html?ref=obituaries remind me that there are so many creative personalities gone too early whose achievement is known to far too few (encomia from FB friends demonstrate how much James Wright’s son took after his father, and the fact was known well by the many people who pay more attention to present-day poetry than I do).

Combined with the recent deaths of old friends also gone years too early and unfairly too little known, plus the recent deaths of some of my once-favorite scholars whose fame rests on the definitive works completed a quarter-century ago, it has got me to thinking again of the impossible responsibility of the cultural critic. For without somebody to write the popularizing but serious survey article (including re-evaluations of long-ago accomplishments), the thoughtful response to the day’s obituary stories will be an alternation between the disturbing “I didn’t know they were still alive” and the even more disturbing “I never knew they did all that.”

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