If you click on the Guernica History link in the side bar you'll get the story behind this magazine. It began as a meeting place between arts and politics and to this day continues to focus on that crossroads. There is the Picasso painting of the same name invoking a brutal and unnecessary massacre in an historic Basque city during the Spanish Civil War, which, maybe as well as anything, captures the synchronicity of arts and politics.
The magazine also grew out of a poetry and fiction reading series that took place at a bar called Guernica.
The essence of this magazine is therefore cradled in the arms of arts and politics, and the magazine itself nurtures the notion that art and literature can have an immediate and lasting effect on the political sphere. Likewise, our current political state ("our current" meaning everyone, at any present moment) is reflected in the dialogue artists and writers attempt to have through their work.
Today on Guernica's blog we welcome a new voice that comes with a grand challenge for us--one that, if risen to, would surely have a positive effect on our current state. Here Jennifer Nix calls for a resurgence of a Gilded Age where Henry James, Mark Twain, William Thackeray and Joseph Conrad, among others, ran short stories and serialized novels in newspapers, offering the public an alternative to the world they saw in front of them. An alternative that, though written on the page, was every bit as real as their own.
How does literature do this? "Great literature creates a level of empathy for other people's lives," Jennifer writes, "with all its emotional, intellectual and philosophical complexities, in a way that no polemic or journalism, memoir or blogging can do."
Edward Abbey once wrote to Annie Dillard that he thought a novel could change the world, he just wasn't sure how long it would take. So he constantly called for people to take action in the present. Yet he could not keep himself from writing novels. Jennifer, like many of us over these last few years, has questioned whether literature can really do anything to change what we've seen in the Bush years. This is not new. Ed Abbey had to ask himself the same question in order to come to his conclusion. The key, as Jennifer points out here, is this: There is no need to choose between the two. A great novel will open a reader's mind, forcing her to see the world anew, and, seeing anew, she will react differently to the world. That is why we need literature to permeate the political scene. To allow for that "level of empathy for other people's lives." To make it so the "reality makers" don't overshadow the "reality interpreters" and show us only the reality they want us to see.
How best to do this? Jennifer has an idea of how to bring about a new Gilded Age.
As always, thanks for reading.
- David Doody
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