May 16, 2008

Author's Apology

Dear Friends,

Some of you have been reminding me that I've been kind of slow in posting material, and I have to plead guilty on this. I really have no excuse, since I have a few articles in my files that I should have posted a while back. It turns out that I'm the "Columnista Internacional" for "Parteaguas," the quarterly journal of the Instituto Cultural de Aguascalientes, here in Mexico. I write on various aspects of "this American life," and they translate my essays into Spanish. So let me now post three of those, which I hope you'll enjoy, and please accept my sincere apologies for having not done so sooner.

All the best to all my readers-



Anonymous Anonymous said...

When a friend of mine recommened Twilight of American Culture she also sent me the link to your blog. I listened to an interview (this was about a year ago) and you mentioned writing an article about 10 Things You Couldn't Say in America, or something like that. Would you post it on your blog? I'd be interested in reading it.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

The essay was called "The Unsayables," and Lewis Lapham, then editor at Harper's, kept finding rather flimsy excuses not to run it (too long, too short, Harper's readers know this stuff already--etc.). I'd prefer, however, not to post it, because with 2 years having gone by, it would need a lot of editing to update it and make it generally presentable, and I just don't have the time. That being said, the content of the piece came out of DAA, the sequel to the Twilight book. So...the best thing I can suggest is that you read that, and you'll have the info you want.

Thanks for your interest, in any case; I look forward to your reaction to DAA.


10:34 PM  
Blogger Mark Notzon said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I have not yet read your most recent book, but as I recently found your website, I do want to mention that some twenty-five years ago, a few month after I had finished a dissertation on the varieties of skepticism of the Seventeenth Century, and its influence on the genre of satire, I came across “The Re-Enchantment of the World.” I had recourse to Gregory Bateson for my explorations into Seventeenth Century thought, and your exposition, once found, I had ingested so deeply that I tucked and kept it in the “back pocket” of memory, where I have, in one way or another, carried it with me ever since..

I have largely been abroad in the developing world—in Africa and Southeast Asia, for the past twenty years, and have only been in the States continuously since April of 2007.
Your discourse on the decline of the United States, as much as I can glean from your website, have been in a way “homeopathic” for one returning to the States after a long absence, and suffering economic and “lack of culture” shocks.

I have been at a loss to find adequate expression for the collapse of the “humanities” and education in general in the United States and in the West. We have at one end professors who stutter in aporia, and at the other students who twitch like catamites, afflicted with ADHD (etc.). The latter may be taken as a signs from great Nature of violations that reach deep into the organic roots of psyche, and if they are read correctly, may lead some of us out of cultural decay.

I do not hesitate to capitalize the word “Nature” for I have walked too long where flat surfaces and straight lines do not exist (or do not exist for long), and revere as best I can, the authority of the cosmos which chastens my pride and ignorance.

For your intellectual and spiritual endeavors, I can only say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Mark Notzon
Decatur, Michigan USA

10:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your encouraging feedback. Sounds like you've been having an interesting life. As far as the situation w/the humanities goes, you might want to check out the posting on this blog entitled "The Purpose of a Humanities Education." It elicited the longest dialogue so far.

But I want to especially say, your writing a letter like that makes a big difference to authors such as myself whose influence does not show up on best-seller lists. Frankly, we have no idea who is out there; sometimes we feel our dialogue is basically with ourselves. I have often said to people that I feel like my life's work amounts to taking a pebble and throwing it at an Abrams tank. I kind of suspect that in terms of cultural or political change, I've made no difference at all. But then that's more than any author can expect, if he or she has true perspective on the situation. What letters like yours do show me, however, is what I discovered the last time I did a lecture tour, 2 yrs ago, for Norton (the publisher of DAA), and in almost every city a few people came up to me after the talk and the Q&A and said something like, "You know, I read X [some book of mine] 20 years ago, and it changed my life." This caught me by surprise, and made me realize that ultimately, the deepest influence is one-on-one, me as author to some person out there in his/her living rm in Hoboken or Sacramento, sitting in his/her favorite armchair, and reading Reenchantment or whatever on a quiet Friday night. Maybe that's finally what it's all about.

So it's for me to thank you, mon cher-


11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Berman, I read somewhere that Walden sold so few copies that the publisher demanded Thoreau pick up the extras and store them himself. I don't claim to have researched this to know the truth of this story or not, but I do know everyone I've recommended your book to have been impressed and went on to read more of your work. You are an influential author if not a best selling one (at this point). Keep publishing-----you have a loyal following.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

Many thanks for the pep talk. As I said, it's the one-on-one relationship that's the most important. As for poor Thoreau, I should tell you that the distributor for "Coming to Our Senses" told me the same thing, and I had to pay for them to ship several boxes to me when I was still living in DC, and then (since I was moving to Mexico) to pay UPS to ship them to a friend in New Mexico; several hundred dollars, if I remember correctly! I tell ya, this is the wrong business to be in if yer goal is to make a buck.

I might attain posthumous visibility, in any case; who knows?

Thanks again,

12:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll bet keeping the faith if you're an author is a tough proposition. Your story was really funny and I'm glad to see you've kept your sense of humor which, I imagine, would be indispensible in your profession. I never fails to amaze me some of the books that are best sellers and even some that win prestigious awards. Cold Mountain and The Shadow of the Wind (recommended by a friend at work) are two noteable examples and both, in my opinion, mediocre, glorified romance novels. I've just begun reading DDA and I'll let you know what I think but I already like it.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

I think that you have had a profound impact on those of us that have read and understood your work. It is irrelevant whether the masses get your message or not, except financially. The key, I think for a writer today, would be to tie up the deeper message into a simple parable or story. Kind of like "Gulliver's Travels". It was a deep message disguised as a children's story. The masses read it for entertainment, and the intellectuals got the sarcasm, etc. My professor told me once that it doesn't matter what the masses think at all. It all depends on what those in power read, think, and do. If your book got into the hands of Barack Obama or George Bush, it could have a profound affect. Of course Bush doesn't read, but it was just an example. We, your few thousand?, readers thank you for your work. It makes us realize that we aren't crazy and that what we think and feel is not so unusual. That alone is very important.

10:29 PM  

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