Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Excremental and Sacramental: More Gems from Wolfe's Letters

I'm continuing to enjoy Thomas Wolfe's Letters. They hearken back to an epistolary age that is lost, when the letter had all the potential to be an essay, a short story, a travelogue, a memoir. Our emails will never be the same.

Here are just a couple of snippets Wolfe wrote from Europe in 1928. Consider, for example, this prescient observation about the coming dynamics of globalization:

"The things you and I have liked best in Europe--the grand pictures, the buildings, and so on--belong mostly to an order of things that has gone: the world--the world that has to eat and drink and labor--is probably being 'Americanized.' At least, they groan about it, and deprecate it, but I think they earnestly want it for themselves. To be 'Americanized' is simply to be industrialized in the most complete and serviceable fashion."

Or this culmination of his description of a church service in rural Hungary, sort of oozing with a weird blend of the sacramental and excremental which, oddly, makes sense:

"Nowhere have I ever seen the simple animal nature of men so plainly as in this church--I kep thinking of this as they all stood there with their smell of the stable, hearing of their kinship to God."