by Steve Haruch
At 4 p.m. today in Vanderbilt's
Wilson Hall Black Cultural Center auditorium, poet, essayist and cultural critic Lewis Hyde will speak on what he calls the “cultural commons” — the sprawling collection of ideas, innovations and works of art that comprise our cultural inheritance — which are the subject of his latest book, Common as Air:
Suspicious of the current idea that all creative work is "intellectual property," Lewis Hyde turns to America's founders—men like Franklin, Adams, Madison, and Jefferson—in search of other ways to imagine the fruits of human wit and imagination. ... In this lively, carefully argued, and well documented book, Hyde brings the past to bear on present matters, shedding fresh light on everything from the Human Genome Project to Bob Dylan's musical roots. Common as Air allows us to stand on the shoulders of America's revolutionary giants and thus to see beyond today's narrow debates over cultural ownership. What it reveals is nothing less than a vision of how to reclaim the Commonwealth of art and ideas that we were meant to inherit.
In a 2005 interview with The Believer, fiction writer Lorrie Moore said the reason she gravitated toward writing was that she hadn’t been discouraged from it, and that people were kinder about her written work than others had been previously about her ballet, her singing and her piano playing. “I headed toward the kindness,” she explained. It’s the sort of sentence that could probably appear in one of Moore’s own stories: It’s compact, it sounds perfectly ordinary, unadorned and natural — and yet it’s so unexpected, and hints at so much without being arch or vague. Again and again, Moore achieves that seemingly impossible balance of language that is plainspoken but not plain, giving believable momentum to her narratives and making her books must-reads for fans of finely observed, understated craft.
Read more about Moore courtesy of Ed Tarkington and Chapter16.org in this week's Scene.