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Rant #122
(published February 20, 2003)
With Regards To The Study And The Manufacture Of Art And Literature
by Fritz Swanson

We are, all of us, on a powerful and long train hurtling into the black of the night; no conductor, only a jammed down throttle and an endless supply of coal. We have two options when teaching literature to our students: we can keep them distracted in the cabin cars until they grow bored and wander around the middle of the train without much sense of where they are and why; or, we can bring them up to the empty engineer's roost and allow them to stand with us, peering out in terror and glee as the unknown trajectory of the starry abyss gapes for us all.

In the middle of the train, and in the cabin cars, there is the un-inspected life. There are middle management jobs, bridge building, children having children one generation after another, more disaffected with each birth, feints of enthusiasm and long miasmic doldrums of half-slumbering highway driving. There is a great deal of dead-eyed commuting in the cabin cars. There is eating, and there is a kind of squishy, half-hearted love making beneath old abandoned blankets.

In the empty engineer's roost there is marveling and terror. There is confusion. There is scribbling and singing and praying. There is the occasional suicide, a young boy overcome by the deep ebon gape who hurls himself from the open window and is sucked soundlessly away. And there is a great deal of thought. And there is hope. Hope that someone, anyone, will figure out how to un-stick the throttle.

Or better yet, someone who will argue effectively for why we are hurtling forward, to where, and what we will gain by the journey.

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