Rumors of Change: Essays of Five Decades

Rumors of Change: Essays of Five Decades

Rumors of Change: Essays of Five Decades

Rumors of Change: Essays of Five Decades


"These essays span five decades and mirror American culture in the postwar years. They represent Hassan's various topics, styles, critical methods, and social attitudes. From formalism in the forties to multiculturalism in the nineties, from existential engagements to postmodern dubieties, from Paul Bowles, Jean Stafford, and William Burroughs to Peter Matthiessen, Marge Piercey, and Christina Dodwell, the essays move with the momentum of history. But they move critically. In sympathy with their subjects, they challenge nonetheless the cant and pieties of their moment." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Day-break and a candle end.

--William Butler Yeats

The essays selected for this volume span five decades. They represent various topics, styles, critical methods, authorial moods, and cultural moments. How could they not in forty years? Thus, however personal, the essays rumor a larger history, rumor cultural change, from page to page.

These pieces, however, did not select themselves. I did, mindful of the ruthlessness of time. I chose from a certain vantage of taste, of age. Like any historian or autobiographer, I carried myself visiting the past. I carried "my giant," Ralph Waldo Emerson would say, but did not use its weight to trample history. Why trample other texts, other times? Just to prove our power over the dead, calling it "rereading"? Passion and dispassion, no doubt, both shape our views, but there is no merit in privileging prejudice. In short, I tried to select the essays with some tact, choosing the best as best I can.

This is not to say that I refused to revise. I revised lightly, pragmatically, to break a paragraph I now find insufferably long, to correct an idiom or usage--who writes "Mr. Bowles" or "Miss Stafford'now?-- to pare repetitions, excepting those serving an incremental or recursive role. And is not selection itself a kind of revision? Tacitly, I revised my work when I chose a fraction of the essays I have written over the years, organizing them chronologically within five thematic sections. These sections, readers will note, zigzag toward the present, even as each offers its partial version of the postwar decades.

Why five sections, though? The essays seek one another in convivial groups, which the little introductions to each part somewhat whimsically explain. The whimsy acknowledges the contingency of change. Does human thought move, over a lifetime, in quanta or waves? The Heraclitean stream eddies, foams, curls back, rears in standing waves, before it runs its course. In any case, the five parts of this work cor-

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