OPEN UNIVERSITY APRIL 3, 2007
by Richard Stern
The 16 comments on my 36th Open University post inspire the sort of explanation writers like me hope they never have to give. One commentator said it was the worst of all the TNR blogs he'd read. (Since I'd contributed 35 earlier ones, part of me felt some relief.) Anyway, here goes.
Several commentators made little or no sense of the connection between the post's two sections, one a brief account of the fine work done for abused Indian girls by Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, the second a summary of a Hemingway story I happened to read after watching the Lehrer "NewsHour" presentation of Dr. Krishnan's work. My posts try to juxtapose current events with each other or with historical or literary "events." The hope is that the "friction" will rouse a pleasurable insight or two. Sometimes the connections are too fragile or too distant from each other. That seems to have been the case in the 36th blog post.
My point there was this: Hemingway's brilliant short story described one of the subtle, refined reactions of a person to an ugly event. Hemingway extended the range of human consciousness and behavior as many fine writers do and have done. The notions of honor, bravery, gallantry, and heroism which the best of Hemingway added to our cultural, psychological, and literary palettes have for decades now been largely ignored, if not indeed scorned, mocked, and parodied. The Hemingway world is often regarded as antediluvian and irrelevant.
I do not regard it that way, but after I hear about and see some of the marvelous work of people like Dr. Krishnan, I am glad that thoughtful people today respond to and celebrate her sort of gallantry, honor, and heroism in a way that was very rarely the case when Hemingway published his story (although, interestingly enough, there are a few gallant and heroic women in his stories and novels). After Florence Nightingale's pioneering nineteenth-century career, a new world of caring and bravery opened up for thousands of young women, but for decades Nightingale herself was often regarded seen as the semi-fanatic of Lytton Strachey's famous portrait of her in Eminent Victorians. No one who counts today will regard Dr. Krishnan as a fanatic or as anything but a wonderfully brave, inventive, patient, and heroic person.
The pleasure I get from the Open University blog posts is the variety of the bloggers' interests, techniques, procedures, and even expressive power. I've hoped that my perhaps excessively eccentric posts have had a small place in these pages.