Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sic transit gloria mundi ...

Essayist extraordinaire Joseph Epstein weighs critic Edmund Wilson in the balance and finds him wanting. Key paragraph:

Wilson was impressed by the two idea systems of Freudianism and Marxism, my own view is, because he was insufficiently impressed by life’s mysteries; as a professional explainer, he preferred problems that had solutions, questions for which there were answers, and in Freudianism and Marxism he found no shortage of both. I suspect his difficulty with Joseph Conrad and Franz Kafka, two major writers whose power he could never quite comprehend, stemmed from the fact that each took as his subject, precisely, the complex mystery of life: Conrad on the cosmic level, asking why we are put on earth; Kafka on the level of human nature, asking why we are as sadly and comically limited as we are.


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