The transitory and the spurious

[emmanuel polanco]

I've been reading Czeslaw Milosz'z strange book The Land of Ulro -- I can't quite figure out what I'm reading, where it's going, or whether I should even care. I like what he says though -- I like how it feels like an unfurling -- scattered thoughts for an unintentional audience.

He writes:

The law of triumphant banality -- crucial, in my view, to an understanding of this century's avant-garde. Without that moment of genuine infatuation with the new, there would be no succession of 'movements' and schools. Those with long enough memories will recall having been captivated, at one time or another, by a bold color or verbal combination, a revelatory distortion, a jarring syntax. It was a thrall bespeaking another, more fantastic reality and, beneath the forms, a shimmering mystery and profundity. But our century's frenzied pace has been particularly hard on such works, turning the extraordinary into the ordinary, the sublime into the vulgar, the fantastic into the real, the most savage grotesque into a middle-class comedy of 'manners and morals.' Like that fairy tale pile of gold discovered at night in the forest and revealed by day as wood rot. Not all of this century's art and literature has been dealt such a fate, but how little is salvageable.

Weathered by time, the transitory and the spurious fade into gray banality; but they may also lose their appeal when confronted by a more powerful beauty, one more abundant in being. Works less abundant in being are put to death, not by critics or canonical pronouncements, but by works of greater abundance. Which raises the question of whether a work kept in the drawer, or a painting condemned never to leave the artist's workshop, can be said to have the same power. In my view, they do -- and this brings us, finally, to the law of magical intervention through unseen communion.