I have been thinking that in order to work through some of my personal dissatisfactions (dissatisfactions of which I am both subject and object) I ought to inquire into the modern use, abuse and parasite encroachment of the word ‘like.’ Avoiding the plague requires the sort of effort of will, I find, that is distracting in more spontaneous conversation. It would require a mental concentration I find leaves out any spontaneity and emotion—at least the enjoyment of it–for me. The word has certainly defeated me so regularly that I have grown alarmed: hence the notion of an essay inquiring into it, examining the thing in another attempt at rational exorcism. The abuse that has caused my alarm has been around a long while, but my fascination was never fixed on it till I heard it disfiguring the language of a six-year-old girl, much to my dismay.
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But I had the good fortune on Tuesday to stop in at the Crystal Half-Wit and find there a book filled with essays by T.S. Eliot and I have been reading said essays with great pleasure and some reflection. The sort of thinking Eliot is capable, not simply of achieving, but of guiding a reader through with pleasure is a power of a very high order. The first essay, “To Criticize the Critic and Other Writings,” is a brilliant bit of reflection, rather funny, and makes a very compelling argument for the power of love in criticism. “I hope what I have said today,” he writes, “may suggest reasons why, as the critic grows older, his critical writings may be less fired by enthusiasm, but informed by wider interest and, one hopes, by greater wisdom and humility.”
The essay with the most brilliant thinking so far (the which to follow, one feels, cannot but elevate the mind and add to the life-experience if not actually to the intelligence of the reader—and I do feel vastly more intelligent after reading that argument) is the essay exploring what it was three great French poets found in the work of Edgar Allan Poe that native speakers never seem to have found. One is led to his conclusions brilliantly. So well, in fact, that one is left with a slight suspicion all due to the unanticipated smoothness of the ride; but this is altogether without any substantial complaint against his reasoning or judgment so that the suspicion feels like an intuition.
Two essays I am especially looking forward to reading are: “What Dante Means to Me” and “Reflections on Vers Libre.”