October 12, 2011


When I majored in philosophy as an undergraduate, I was introduced to the writings of Emanuel Kant. To this day, I remember his apparent glee as he wrote that his work would be unintelligible to most people, believing as he did, that he was too clever for the fools around him. Given his opinion, one wonders why he bothered to commit his thoughts to paper and frankly, as a student, I’d have been grateful if he hadn’t bothered. 

In my youth I was intimidated by Kant’s posturing. At 75 I am ready to admit he overvalued his opinions of himself. He’s not alone in this. There are others who hold their noses when among the common folk.

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For their sin of pride, I sometimes think about writing an updated version of the “Divine Comedy.” Into the 10th pit of hell I’d consign not Judas, Cassius and Brutus but Saul Below, Bernard Malamud and Philip Roth. I charge them with the sin of making art boring. I, for one, have had my fill of male menopausal thoughts about women and wonder why these men of supposed greatness never tired of writing endless descriptions about a “triangle” of pubic hair? 

Into Purgatory I’d also cast Joyce Carol Oates, not because she’s menopausal. She, too, is boring. James Joyce: come on down! Some of his work is glorious but he must be punished for his Herculean struggle to make Ulysses unintelligible. Proust, I’m afraid, would not fare as well as Oates or Joyce. I agree with the publishers who unanimously rejected his submissions and forced him to produce his works himself.

Assigned to Paradise would be Edgar Allen Poe, Flannery O’Connor, Henry James, E. L. Doctorow, Thomas Mann, Harold Pinter, Haruki Murakami and Edith Wharton. A special room would be reserved for the humorist James Thurber and Samuel Clemens, two curmudgeons who always make me smile and they never bore. 

Everyone’s list will be different from mine, I realize; and I hope my choices have offended no one. But after 75 years of eclectic reading, I’m ready to say that some of the giants stink.

Oh, it feels good to confess that!