Saturday, February 4, 2017
The Party of Hope and the Party of Experience
Nick Loprete, a coruscatingly brilliant and funny teacher of mine when I was a student at Fordham, once grew surprisingly serious. It's many years ago, now, so his words are lost to me. But here is what I took from him that day:
American literature is divided into two basic perspectives--the Party of Hope and the Party of Experience.. The first faces Westward, ever west. Its adherents rush out into the wide-open spaces, country that has not yet been broken and claimed and made into something owned and domesticated. The Party of Hope is always looking outward, seeking the new place and the new self, and seeking to find the place where they may fuse into the fresh start, the new self, in harmony with the world around it.
The Party of Experience faces Eastward, ever east. Its adherents reside in the settled places, the old established communities, where the architecture has had time to grow old enough to recall a past nobody alive can describe from memory. Whether the Party of Experience's member lives in the glittering cosmopolitan cities, the staid, handsome gently aging villages, or the decaying towns, whose beauty comes from their evocation of past glories gone beyond recall, the denizen of the Party of Experience lives in a place settled long enough to have ghosts and ghost stories.
The Party of Hope looks to tomorrow; the Millennium approaches.
The Party of Experience knows that however fast you run, however far you go, you cannot escape your existential self.
 Yes, I know; Emerson called it the Party of Memory. But I'm not channeling Emerson now, am I?