Poring over the number of submissions we at The Minnesota Review receive, what I always want to pick up from a piece is electricity. The same ecstatic feeling you get when you read a passage of impossibly well-communicated emotion…something to bring me into the mind and world of a work and abandon my critical faculties for a fleeting instant. For a course I’m currently enrolled in we’re reading Eliot’s Middlemarch, and she describes a moment between two people, or the involuntary impression derived from it as “this cry from soul to soul, without other consciousness than their moving with kindred natures in the same embroiled medium” (Book III, Chapter XXX). In the midst of stuffy Victorian social norms there exists a human, and if we’re going with period jargon, a very Romantic need for humans to somehow understand one another. By extension, when reading the submissions for the Review I’m personally looking for someone whose art fires off a similar “cry” from the synapses of my brain and connects that to the piece of writing. As a reviewer this is both an imaginative ideal and something to seek out beyond the technical constraints of running a journal such as print space, or whether or not the work fits well enough with the other pieces.
We never entirely shut down the analytical way we read, and I think it’s a necessary inhibition so we aren’t just absorbing but also picking at content. Perhaps it’s a stretch to fancy analytical reading as equal to the craft of committing words to the page— that there would exist some parallel between the opening of the channel of feeling (in reading) and the brewing of ideas through unrestrained thought towards the art. Lost yet? “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” (T.S. Eliot, The Rock) Or what are we losing in the movement from the freedom of the mind to words? At this point I’m imitating a lowly parrot: anyone reading this blog is surely able to rattle off a whole list of authors and thinkers who have asked these questions in more elegant form and deafness. The value of juggling these epistemic preponderances is figuring out how they make what we’ve been reading collapse in or itself or take off like a dragster hopped up on nitrous oxide. The latter is always what we’re hoping to see happen, and when it does I attribute it to the writer’s freedom within their own creative process. Even if one’s arguing for language as a series of shackles over the mind, the creations birthed from language in sound and meaning, characters and plot will hopefully supersede them thanks to shape-shifting abilities of the artist to revel in their own chaos. Is it so difficult to get back to a creative imagination without limits?
Tom Minogue realized last year he has no visual depth perception. He also realized this is irrelevant as long as he never, ever, has to play dodgeball in the schoolyard again.