New Criticals

Pardon me while I allow my curmudgeon to speak, briefly. I find there are few more odious sentiments than “some things are better not to think about,” which is, at heart, a preference for the comfortable over the true. As though obliviousness might make the trouble go away. I’ve heard iterations of the phrase several times over the last few weeks, and it always rings false in conversation, a deferral dressed in politeness.

Perhaps my argument is with the whole military-industrial cliché complex, churning out major network ready tidbits of shallow wisdom the sponsors can match with glib, friendly-sounding taglines. The kinds of taglines that tell you, in tones appropriately Draperian, Don’t Worry, Buy Happy. And yet, what is this lingering doubt that remains? What dissatisfaction still chokes with gall the sweetness we were meant to savor?

The complaint might grow into a multiplex fret, but the ground I want to work is actually quite small. You see, I am (fortunately or unfortunately) a passionate defender of the ways literature teaches us how to live and be, not just with ourselves, but also with each other. Hence, the straw man above who says, “there are some things it’s better not to think about,” who expresses a sentimental view, and would prefer to avoid pain and violence, to the point of denying these things exist. He also would not read the kinds of works that deal with any ambiguity (moral or otherwise), or the uncertainty and doubt ever creeping in. Our very cooperative straw man, then, would not enjoy reading Southern Gothic literature.