New American Gothic

New American Gothic

New American Gothic

New American Gothic

Excerpt

JOHN W. ALDRIDGE has effectively stated the case against new American Gothic.In his essay on Capote and Buechner, appropriately subtitled "The Escape into Otherness," he writes:

They have also escaped the problem of giving significance to evil and guilt within the context of a valueless society. They have been able to create a separate and private moral context for each of their books and to find a meaning for the moral dilemma of their characters within that context. It should not matter if the meaning they find lacks reference in the social world. By making their books something other than reflections of that world, they should, by rights, have relieved themselves of all obligations to it. But in even the most perfect novel of privacy there always comes a time when purely contextual meaning ceases to be enough and one begins to wish for a kind of significance that will expand beyond itself and illuminate the universal issues of life.

Mr. Aldridge is correct: Capote and the others do not deal with political tensions; they explore a world in which characters are distracted by private visions.But a problem immediately arises: Are these visions so unusual? I think a valid argument can be made for the fact that we look inward as much as we do at Laos. The writer who illuminates the terror of the "buried life" performs a necessary and even vital service.Mr. Aldridge wants an examination of the "universal issues . . .

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