Saturday, January 8, 2011
I think Dani (of Dewey and Dani) picked up the Sedaris, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, which sounds like it could do a lot of mayhem in the animal world.
And I have just finished The Fine Art of Literary Mayhem, by Myrick Land, A Lively Account of Famous Writers & Their Feuds. It was a lively account, and I liked it even more than Literary Feuds: A Century of Celebrated Quarrels, by Anthony Arthur. But they both sort of freak me out, and they worked into my conversation with Harry, a philosopher who has lived through postmodernism and beyond.
One wants to hear Buzz Lightyear say that! Or, as a literary critic might render it, Buzzword Lightweight!
No, really, Harry and I were discussing the harm literature and criticism can do one another if each is struggling to elevate itself above the other. But while there were certainly feuds between rival writers and critics and writers, this Literary Mayhem book is also remarkable for conveying that sense of respect and responsibility that writers and critics have felt toward one another at various times.
And it made me look up the word "mayhem" which I had associated with riotous disorder and wild confusion but which actually means "the offense of wilfully crippling or maiming a person," which, indeed, some of the feuding writers did, figuratively, to one another. And there were some fistfights.
Or "wanton destruction" which makes us think of the streets after the Michigan vs. Ohio game.
A milder example of mayhem given by my American Heritage dictionary is children in the garden, but then ponder all those broken stems and beheaded flowers, and we are back to the maiming.
"Ah, love, let us not maim one another." Uh oh, I've just maimed Matthew ("Sweetness and Light") Arnold.
For "Dover Beach," read by David Kirby, go here. For more on Matthew Arnold, go here or here. And now off I go to a volleyball tournament, where I hope there will be no mayhem of any sort.