Author Archives: leewatkins

The Perfect Critic

In an essay by T.S. Eliot called “The Perfect Critic” we learn, above all, that art criticism is difficult. For one thing, many art critics don’t make art themselves, and so the criticism they write is shaped by their own … Continue reading

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Fantasy and Escapism

Fantasy books, TV shows, and films all provide entertainment and escapism. I enjoy fantasy but I’m troubled by this notion of escape – of using art to “wind down” and “switch off.” It seems to me that this is potentially … Continue reading

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Know Thyself

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Know Thyself” seems to offer up two possible interpretations, and I wonder whether Coleridge believed self-knowledge was possible or not. The poet asks “Say, canst thou make thyself?” and urges his reader to “Learn first that … Continue reading

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Above and Below

If Henry Miller’s Nexus begins in a slough of despair, in its final chapters the rays of hope begin to emerge. The day he’ll leave for Europe is approaching, and knowing he will be leaving soon makes his remaining days … Continue reading

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Notes on Susan Sontag’s “On Style”

There’s always a distance between the work of art itself and the reality it represents. This distance is “inhuman,” says Susan Sontag: it’s artificial, belonging to the representation and not coming directly from lived reality. But Sontag wants us to … Continue reading

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Arthur Machen’s “Meditations of a Tavern”

In Arthur Machen’s The Hill of Dreams, Lucian Taylor is a struggling writer prone to daydreaming. He deliberately seeks out obscure books, to learn the most useless knowledge he can find. He is sick of modern society and its day-to-day … Continue reading

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Book Review: Significant Other by Isabel Galleymore

Isabel Galleymore’s Significant Other is about the modern human being and her relationship to nature. When the poet is “walking with the ocean below” she is walking with the ocean. She asks the ocean questions, to which “the ocean blinked” … Continue reading

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Truth and Literature

Henry Miller is obsessed with truth. And yet he wants to write literature! Literature is something other than truth. “Then to hell with literature!” Writing his novel, Henry is all the while obsessed with the idea of the real book … Continue reading

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Broken Life (Notes on Henry Miller’s Nexus)

Henry Miller is especially enjoying this conversation with Mona, who has just returned from Europe. It’s not just because he’s missed her so much; what he likes is that they are having his favourite kind of conversation: the “broken” and … Continue reading

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The Gospel of Work

When Henry Miller writes that “the gospel of work” is “the doctrine of inertia” he really speaks to me. I often think about what politicians are trying to convince us of when they talk about “work” and “jobs.” It’s spoken … Continue reading

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